Google Launches ‘Chromezone’ Store In London

Google’s branded shop within a shop is designed to promote and sell Samsung Chromebooks running Chrome OS

Online search giant Google has opened its first ever retail store inside the PC World outlet at Tottenham Court Road in London. The 285 square foot “shop within a shop”, dubbed the Chromezone, is currently being used to showcase and flog Samsung Chromebooks – the first laptops to run Google’s Chrome operating system.

The pop-up store is designed to be in tune with Google’s colour scheme, and specially trained Chromebook experts are on hand to offer guidance and advice to shoppers. A few accessories such as headphones are also on sale.

“It is our first foray into physical retail. This is a new channel for us and it’s still very, very early days. It’s something Google is going to play with and see where it leads,” said Arvind Desikan, head of consumer marketing at Google UK.

“People will be able to go in and have a play with the devices. We want to see whether people understand what this device is all about and monitor their reaction when they try it out,” he added.

The Chromezone on Tottenham Court Road will be open for three months up to Christmas. If the experiment is successful, Google is expected to follow its rival Apple in opening permanent stores around the world. A second store, opening on 7 October, is already planned at Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex.

Chromebooks get mixed reception

The Samsung Chromebook Series 5 first arrived on UK shelves on 24 June. The 12.1 inch notebook weighs just 3.3-pounds (1.45kg) and measures 11.6 inches wide, 0.8 inches thick and 8.6 inches deep. The device has a WXGA LCD (1280×800) screen, which is said to be both an anti-reflective and anti-glare display. It comes with an Intel N570 1.66Ghz Dual Core CPU, a 16GB solid state drive (SSD) for local storage, and 2GB DDR3 RAM.

The Series 5 also comes with two USB ports and a four-in-one card reader, as well as an HD webcam. An optional VGA adaptor allows for the connection of a second monitor or TV. It can boot up in just eight seconds and can resume from sleep mode within a second. The Wi-Fi only model costs £349 whereas the Wi-Fi/3G model will set UK customers back £399.

Most importantly, it is the first device to run Google’s Chrome OS. This operating system relies heavily on the cloud, where users will store the majority of their data and, indeed, their applications.

“Chromebooks are the perfect laptops for people who live on the web, and offer a faster, safer and more secure online experience, without all the time-consuming and confusing maintenance required by typical computers,” said Desikan.

However, some commentators feel that the Chromebook will not make much impression in the enterprise space, and will struggle to compete against traditional laptops and even tablets because of its high cost, silent updates and requirement for constant Wi-Fi and 3G access in order to work.

“I see the Chromebook as more of a thought experiment than a viable product at this point,” Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps told eWEEK back in May.