In a roundtable discussion with reporters today, Google’s head of Android Andy Rubin came right out and flatly denied the search giant was considering the launch of retail locations. “Google has no plans and we have nothing to announce,” Rubin was reported as saying by AllThingsD’s Ina Fried. Curiously, Rubin’s explanation for why Google doesn’t need stores was basically the exact opposite of argument from third-party observers about why it does.
Rubin said that consumers “don’t have to go in the store and feel [products] anymore,” according to ATD. That’s a pretty marked contrast to what a lot of people have been saying about why Google might want to get into the brick-and-mortar biz. Just last week, MG suggested that “average consumers are never going to buy [Google's] projects online without having tried them first,” in fact. Apple has had success providing experience-based shopping environments, after all, which helped greatly in evangelizing and popularizing the concept of the iPad.
But Rubin believes that consumers these days are better served by online tools, including review sites and word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and social connections, to the point where a hands-on experience isn’t necessary. He added that he believes Google’s Nexus program is still relatively young, and not “far enough along to think about the necessity of having these things in a retail store.”
Looking at Google’s hardware efforts in the wake of the Chromebook Pixel announcement last week, it does seem that the company is still in a largely experimental mode when it comes to fielding its own devices. A significant retail investment might not make sense until Google decides more firmly what works and what doesn’t with its hardware lineups in terms of meeting current customer needs.