Apparently seeing all the fun that Apple is having in the retail business, Google reportedly is planning on opening its own stores. 

Reports on this rumor include a recent story in The Wall Street Journal, which cited “people familiar with the matter.” The Journal said that the search giant is currently in the planning process, and the location or opening dates for the stores are not yet clear. Apple CEO Tim Cook has attributed the iPad’s success in part to his company’s stores, which provide a public face to the company as well as offering in-person support.

Chromebooks, Nexus Devices

The Journal said one source has indicated that Google might choose not to open any stores this year. Other recent reports, however, have indicated at least some stores will be opened before the 2013 holiday season in several major metropolitan areas. Google has not yet commented on any of the reports.

The stores could offer Google-branded hardware, including Chromebooks and Nexus smartphones and tablets.

Chromebooks have been enjoying a boomlet recently, with new models from HP, Lenovo, Acer and Samsung. Acer has reported that as many as 10 percent of its laptop sales in the U.S. are Chromebooks, Samsung’s 11.6-inch Chromebook has been a top selling laptop on, and Lenovo, which has released a rugged Chromebook for schools, is now reportedly working on a model for corporations.

Google Glass

Chromebooks are a good example of why Google might be interested in opening a line of brick-and-mortar stores. IT departments and users might be more interested in their thin-client, Net-based, easy to manage and use OS if they could test-drive them in a store, providing the same kind of hands-on, try-before-buy opportunity that Apple and Microsoft are offering customers in stores.

Google already has Chrome mini-stores within hundreds of Best Buys in the U.S. and dozens of PC World/Dixon’s in the U.K., which are staffed with Google-trained employees. But the mini-stores act largely as informational kiosks rather than sales-oriented outlets, and the range of products and presentation is very limited.

Some reports have indicated that the idea for a line of stores emerged as Google has been planning how to roll out its enhanced-reality Google Glass glasses. That upcoming product offers a communications device in a pair of glasses, along with overlays of searchable data on top of buildings, people and other real-world images being seen by the user. The thinking appears to be that non-technies need to try on the glasses to make the purchase, especially given an initial retail price expected to be US$ 500 to US$ 1000.

Image courtesy of Baevskiy Dmitry (Shutterstock)