Image from Google Glass hackathon

Google to launch stand-alone stores by holidays

Google is seeking a greater retail presence with plans to open stand-alone shops in big cities, with the first ones expected to launch in time for the busy holiday shopping season.

It could be a smart move given that major competitors that sell mobile operating systems, cell phones or other electronic gadgets, including Apple, Microsoft and Sony, already have a wide array of stores across the country.

In addition to giving people hands-on time with current Google devices such as the Chromebook , Nexus 4 smartphone and Nexus 10 tablet and at some point Google Glass, the new shops might be good places for Google to demo otherGoogle X Lab projects in the works, such as its self-driving cars, which have already logged thousands of miles on American roadways.

While Google already has Chromebook dedicated areas within many U.S. Best Buys and U.K. retailers where you can try out its browser-based notebook before buying it, the new stand-alone Google stores will have a wider reach.

Just like you can head to an Apple or Microsoft store and play around with an iPad or Surface RT before laying down $500 to take one home, Google wants to let people handle its Chromebooks, Nexus mobile devices and, eventually, Google Glass head mounted displays before buying them.

In fact, according to “an extremely reliable source” who dished to 9to5 Google, the idea for the stand-alone stores bubbled up as part of Google’s plans to offer Google Glass to the public. So far the only people who’ve gotten to wear them are Google execs such as Sergey Brin, who occasionally pops up in public sporting them, or programmers who’ve shelled out $1,500 for the developer version with which to create apps for the device.

While technophiles might drool at the idea of augmented reality glasses controlled by voice and other inputs to do things commonly handled by smartphones, the average consumer might wonder why you need glasses to do things such as schedule meetings, take pictures, check the weather, get directions, and place a video call. Not only that, the head mounted display will probably run anywhere from $500 to $1,000, so letting people experience how cool they are is probably a good bet on Google’s part.

Google recently posted photos on Google+ from the two Google Glass hackathons it recently held with a small group of developers in New York and San Francisco. During the two-day events, “the selected Glass Explorers” came up with more than 80 new ways to use Glass, although Google isn’t saying what they are.

More information about Google Glass will likely shake out of SXSW next month in Austin, Texas —Google is telling developers who want to build for the platform to attend a March 11 session held by Google senior developer advocate Timothy Jordan.

In the meantime, look for those Google stores to be popping up.

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