Google shows off in its first real-world shop

Visitors to the Google pop-up shop in New York trying out the company's new Daydream View virtual reality headset. Nothing is sold at the shop, but it allows people to get their hands on new Google devices such as the Pixel smartphone, the Home virtu
Visitors to the Google pop-up shop in New York trying out the company's new Daydream View virtual reality headset. Nothing is sold at the shop, but it allows people to get their hands on new Google devices such as the Pixel smartphone, the Home virtual assistant and the Daydream View.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • It's not exactly a store, but the Google "showroom" that has just opened in New York is the Internet giant's first real-world shop and a step onto terrain where rival Apple has excelled.

The success of the temporary storefront that Google opened in the trendy Soho neighbourhood could help the company decide whether to follow Apple's lead and operate its own bricks-and-mortar retail operations.

The New York pop-up shop will be open until the end of the year, and will let people get their hands on new Google devices such as the Pixel smartphone, which began shipping on Thursday in a direct challenge to Apple's latest iPhones.

"This is not even a testing ground, just an extension of the launch," Google spokesman Chrissy Persico said at the showroom opening.

"We want people to come in and experience the products."

Google early this month took on rivals Apple, Samsung and Amazon in a new push into hardware, launching the in-house designed Pixel and a slew of other devices showcasing artificial intelligence prowess.

By producing both the Pixel's hardware and its Android software, Google is making a more direct assault on Apple and its tightly controlled ecosystem.

The pop-up shop also displays Google's freshly unveiled Daydream View virtual reality headset, a modular Wi-Fi system and a Home virtual assistant that will challenge the Amazon Echo device.

Nothing is sold at the Google shop, but the staff directs potential customers to the company's online store or to telephone operators who can take orders for products.

A wall in the shop is decorated with an artful arrangement of blue, red, yellow and green blocks, set up to display the Internet company's trademark colours.

Only about 30 visitors ventured into the pop-up store for its opening morning, a lean showing in comparison to the mobs typically drawn to new Apple stores.

Apple also has a shop in Soho, and many more across the United States and the world.

As differences on the hardware side of premium smartphones have faded, competitors have increasingly stressed "experiences" such as smooth access to content or services.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2016, with the headline 'Google shows off in its first real-world shop'. Print Edition | Subscribe