Google has opened a test “store within a store” in London, “The Chromezone,” primarily to sell Chromebooks — as the name suggests. It will be open through Xmas 2011. If successful Google might pursue the concept more broadly, say with a Carphone Warehouse in the UK or a BestBuy in the US.
As I wrote previously, in 2006 I pitched Google the idea of a “Google Store.” The idea was to sell Google-related merchandise but to provide a physical location where SMBs could go to learn about AdWords. At that time there really was no Google merchandise other than t-shirts and other minor schwag. But today there are laptops, mobile phones, accessories . . . and t-shirts.
The genius of the Virgin-Chromebooks promotion — users get a free Chromebook and free WiFi on Virgin flights — is that you actually get to “test drive” a Chromebook, thus making you more inclined to buy one in the future. The Samsung version of the laptop, which retails for $499, is the one they give out in the Virgin promotion. It’s a nice little machine but too expensive for what it is. If it were priced at $299 it would be flying off the shelves . . .
While Google doesn’t have a full line of hardware products to sell as Apple does, a Google Store might be quite successful and be a showcase for a broad range of products and services.
Here’s a video made last year showing a Google retail store on the Mountain View campus.