Google To Distribute Mobile Devices To Businesses For Checkins, Ratings And More

In an effort to compete with services like Facebook, Yelp and Foursquare, Google is preparing to distribute millions of custom mobile devices to small businesses around the U.S., says a source with knowledge of the program. These devices will allow customers to check-in and rate the businesses and perhaps even purchase items via Google Checkout. Eight million of the devices will be distributed, says the source.

Another source has said the 8 million devices figure may be significantly higher than the actual number of devices being rolled out.

Google clearly wants to get a lead in the potentially very lucrative local business market for both checkins (Foursquare, Facebook) and reviews (Yelp). Online to offline commerce is “a trillion dollar opportunity.” Money spent at coffee shops, bars, gyms, restaurants, gas stations, plumbers, dry-cleaners, and hair salons, etc. makes up a very large percentage of overall spending, and online services want a piece of that. Yelp touches this world, as does Foursquare and others. Groupon’s growth can be attributed to the huge untapped potential in local online to offline promotions as well.

Google wants their piece.

The devices will presumably allow customers to check in to businesses, leave reviews and possibly even purchase items via Google checkout. But there’s a lot we don’t know. We’ve heard that Google will give these first devices away for free, but we don’t know if they’d plan to charge once the product is more established, for example.

We’ll update as we get more information. We’ve reached out to Google for comment.

We’ve reached out to Google for comment.