A few months ago on the GigaOM podcast, host Adam Lesser asked his guests, Colin Gibbs and myself, to give our crazy predictions for mobile in 2013.
Colin predicted that RIM could stage a comeback this year (definitely crazy, but maybe crazy enough to be true), while I predicted something some would call certifiably insane: Google would somehow go into physical retail in 2013.
Why? Because I’ve felt for a while that Google needs a physical presence where people can touch and feel all the new products the company and its hardware partners are selling.
Here’s how I put it on the podcast:
“Much like Dish saw an opportunity in buying Blockbuster to sell more Dish DVRs . . . there’s are a lot of synergies, to use a terrible word, to sell Nexus phones, have people get their hands on Chrome books.”
“I just think letting people have their hands on devices really makes a lot of sense. That’s why the Nook is even relevant today, because people go into Barnes and Noble and they can put their hands on them and some people actually buy them. It does matter. Some people want to touch things before they buy them.”
Of course, I will note I suggested that Google would likely go retail through an acquisition (something it could still do). But either way, the reasons above are valid, whether it’s through an organic or acquisition-led effort.
Google is increasingly a physical products company, and whether it’s pushing its own hardware, the joint-effort Nexus devices, or Android devices from partners like HTC or Samsung, there is no doubt that letting people touch the devices in an environment they fully control would help.
And it’s not just phones and tablets. As the company expands further into TV and connected personal technology such as Google glasses, having full control over a storefront to show proof of concepts is an absolute must.
After all, let’s face it: Google is often a few years ahead of the mass market. What better way could it help consumers better understand its vision for its forward-leaning technology than by showing it to them?