Google’s opening its own Android store online. There also has been some talk of Google opening a physical store as well. Do these decisions make sense for Google? I think the first does and the second does not.
The challenge with e-readers and tablets is apart from your technophile superusers most people need to get their hands on them to become confident that the experience is good and is worth it. An e-store doesn’t do that. We’ve seen that Amazon is going to experiment with its own bricks and mortar, definitely a direct response to both the Apple store and the Nook store in Barnes and Noble locations. We’ve seen that Microsoft is opening stores that take their lead directly from Apple stores, featuring Windows Mobile devices among other things. While the clear trend has been toward internet-based commerce, in this case we have seen that there is value in physical showrooms. Other industries like automobiles and mattresses experience this factor as well, where there value in buyers being able to interact with the physical product before making a decision. What’s different about Android is that Google already has a physical footprint in a whole lot of wireless carrier locations. Thousands of Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint stores are doing exactly that. It’s hard to imagine Google putting enough of a footprint out there to materially affect Android adoption.
Online is another matter. Google has all kinds of advantages with its own store, such as a page rank of 10, better SEO knowledge than anyone else, free house ads in AdWords, 100% uptime, and local versions in dozens of languages and hundreds of countries. It’s hard for even the likes of Apple to compete on an even footing. So I say the online store has lots of potential for Google, but brick and mortar probably doesn’t make sense.