Google's Apple Store Clone Will Sell iPad Clones
Everyone loves a copycat. Soon you're going to get one from Google (NASDAQ: GOOG ).
According to the Wall Street Journal  (via TechCrunch ), the search engine giant is planning to sell co-branded tablets from an online store that's similar to those offered by Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN ).
This report – which stems from “people familiar with the matter” and has not actually been confirmed – falls in line with the news that Google wants to destroy the iPad  with a superior tablet. If true, Google is taking a big gamble. The company will undoubtedly be forced to pour billions of dollars into its tablets (to manufacture and promote them, among other expenses). But Google is apparently prepared to spend that money, knowing that the payoff could be massive. Just look at what Android smartphones have done for the company. Without taking a risk on the smartphone biz, Google would have unknowingly sacrificed several billion dollars in annual revenue.
Google came to smartphones, however, when Apple was still new to the game (as most tech companies were). It was a time when AT&T (NYSE: T ) was the sole carrier of the iPhone in the United States, paving the way for other smartphone makers to flood Verizon (NYSE: VZ ), Sprint (NYSE: S ), and T-Mobile. In short, it was a best-case scenario for Google.
The same cannot be said for any of Google's other copycat ventures. Take social media, for example. No one except Google cares about Google+. The company wishes we cared about it, and has spent a small fortune trying to earn consumer support. But for every story surrounding the millions of people who signed up for Google+, there are reports revealing how few of those registrants actually use the service. And that number isn't very high.
Next, let's take a look at the laptop market. When Google unveiled the first Chromebook, it was touted as the most creative thing since sliced bread. Actually, Google led us to believe that with a Chromebook, we wouldn't need sliced bread (or anything else important, like a hard drive or a powerful processor). Despite the Google hype, Chromebooks were not really Google devices; they were manufactured by Samsung and Acer and sold through a special online store . Thus far, consumers have not been impressed. Google has attempted to rectify some of the user complaints by increasing the number of offline options. But that defeats the purpose of what Google was trying to create: an online-only world with online-only devices. Yawn. Consumers don't want that. Even if Internet connections were flawless, we'll never live in a world that's always online. There will inevitably be places where the Internet just isn't available. And during those times, consumers still want their devices to function properly.
There are, of course, times when Google has managed to overcome the odds and become a powerful player in an existing market. Google Maps might be one of the best examples. Prior to its creation, most people chose MapQuest for their online mapping needs. But Google worked hard to produce a better map site, one that was seamlessly integrated into Google.com. The company was the first to introduce a detailed street view, allowing users to zoom in close and get a better look at their destination. While the site was initially flawed with incorrect information (as recent as 2010, Google Maps had a hard time pinpointing exact locations; in some circumstances, it could users a half-mile away from their destination), Google Maps has slowly become the most reliable map site around. Whereas I once used MapQuest exclusively (because it was the only site of its kind), then MapQuest and Google Maps together, I now use Google Maps almost exclusively for all of my mapping needs. (When I need extra info, I turn to Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT ) map service within Bing.)
That's a pretty huge accomplishment for Google. And it's these kinds of success stories that make the company think it can penetrate and dominate any market.
It will never be that simple, however – not for Google and not for anyone else. Apple might have a similar attitude toward the TV market (which it may or may not have the power to overtake). But Google has this attitude toward every industry.
With the manufacturing prowess of Samsung (or some other tech giant), Google might be able to achieve a degree of tablet success. If nothing else, Google's tablets should sell better than its Chromebooks. (Ugh, I hope they don't call them “Chromepads.”) But the tablet market might be smaller than we thought . This could make it difficult for anyone to sell a tablet this year.
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