updated 06:45 pm EDT, Thu March 29, 2012
Google to open own online tablet store
Google is expecting to start selling Android tablets directly, sources claimed Thursday night. It would run an online store that would carry third-party devices from companies like ASUS and Samsung, the Wall Street Journal said. Some of these would be Google co-branded, but that was a reference to regular third-party devices that had met the terms for the branding and not part of an official Google-designed tablet.
The search firm was reportedly considering subsidizing sales to help compete with the Kindle Fire, insiders said. At $199, Amazon's design is being sold at a loss and has often been seen as a threat to Google's concept of Android. By leading Android tablet market share with a custom variant that didn't include apps for official Google services, it could undermine the official releases and push customers away from Google Play books, music, and videos.
The opening date for the store wasn't yet known, according to the claims. However, the expected mid-year unveiling of the next major Android version, Jelly Bean, in mid-year was interpreted as a possible link. The Google I/O conference this year is due in late June and has been broadly interpreted as the venue for any major new Android developments.
A direct online store wouldn't necessarily have a major impact. Google tried selling the Nexus One directly as an exclusive, but a lack of marketing and Android's smaller stature at the time hurt its chances. Since then, Google has usually just pointed customers to third-party stores through a gallery that lists example Android hardware. Regardless, an online store would improve a situation where stock Android tablets often haven't had as much exposure as Apple's iPad or the Kindle Fire, both of which rely heavily on sales from their designers' websites.