Google has no plans to open retail stores contrary to rumors, according to Android chief Andy Rubin at Mobile World Congress 2013.
Maybe Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) isn’t planning to build retail stores to sell its branded hardware after all, as widely rumored last week. Android chief Andy Rubin, speaking at this week’s Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona, said emphatically that Google has “no plans and we have nothing to announce” regarding opening its own stores, according to reports.
Rubin didn’t elaborate on Google’s planning application for a 1,232-square-foot space near its European headquarters in Dublin to sell “Google merchandise,” a request that was approved late last month.
But that wasn’t all he had to say on the subject, adding that Google’s customers had no need to go into a store to handle products before deciding to buy. Not even for the impending Google Glass project? Or for the newly unwrapped Chromebook Pixel, which Best Buy already is signed on to sell? Google’s reasoning, Rubin, said, is that most consumers base their buying decisions on what their peers say about a product or how it’s reviewed online.
Really? Does Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) or Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) know about that? Has anyone told the 500 million customers who Apple claims visit its stores annually that their time is better served talking to others and reading online reviews?
Perhaps, in fairness, the reason Rubin debunked the retail store rumor is that, as he noted, Google is still learning the hardware business and believes a headlong dive into brick-and-mortar stores would be premature. “For Nexus, I don’t think the program is far enough along to think about the necessity of having these things in a retail store,” he said. That would seem to suggest Google may believe “too fast, too much,” for any retail store plans at this point.
According to reports, Rubin also used the time to point out that Google's successful partnership with Samsung—which has catapulted the Korean manufacturer to dominate the worldwide smartphone market with a 40 percent share—has made Google a bit wary regarding how the relationship might look going forward. Because other Android device makers haven’t approached Samsung’s success, he said, the company has bargaining power with Google unmatched by its rivals. Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobility could serve as a “hedge” against Samsung gaining an unchallenged position with Android, Rubin added.
It’s difficult to imagine that any IT company—especially one with Google’s size, heft and power—would publicly display its vulnerability to one of its customers, so it’s fairly safe to assume that Rubin simply is jockeying for position with Samsung should Motorola Mobility produce a Google-backed product to threaten its Android sanctity.