Why Google's stores shouldn't look so much like Apple stores
The problem that Microsoft and Google have as they go into retail is that their stores can look too similar to Apple stores. For Google to be successful, maybe it needs to embrace "The Big Bang Theory."
Some engineers have never dated a real person.
They've tried to, but it's hard for them to appreciate that real people don't necessarily use data to make decisions -- especially when it comes to love.
Perhaps their most embarrassing moments come when they try to mimic what non-engineers do in order to make themselves more attractive.
This mirrors some of the little issues that the Google brand has had over the years in becoming, well, human.
When you've spent you life believing that facts are everything, it's hard to imagine that people might prefer, oh, rounded corners or that ephemeral thing sometimes known as taste.
Google has made progress through some of its advertising. The "Jess Time" ad for Chrome was one of the very best tech ads of the 2012.
Yet when Google has wandered into retail, it has either believed that all you need is online or that an offline store ought to look rather like Apple's.
This is something against which Microsoft also struggles. It was almost comical when one Microsoft employee explained to me that its store looked -- at first glance -- a lot like the Apple store.
This week,that Google wants to make the next step in coming toward humanity by having its own shopping-mall retail presence.
The evidence so far from its pop-up stores -- as the picture above shows -- is that Google isn't thinking different. Or, at least, different enough.
If it fully intends to come out to the people -- to be itself-- then instead of having nice, clean retail staff in blue T-shirts (what brand does that remind you of?), it should embrace its true heart.
It should have real house-trained nerds, replete with bedhead and bad taste clothing, there for all to see. Yes, you could have nice, normal members of staff there to translate for them.
But the purpose of a retail store isn't merely to sell. It's to create street theater. Apple has its own version. Google must find its own too.
Instead of the now almost cliched clean lines and permanent white, it should make its stores look like excitable, sophisticated college playrooms, where books about dragons and vast Hulk hands are lying about and episodes of "Star Trek" and "Game of Thrones" are playing on huge screens.
It should expose itself fully as a brand that came out of nerdomania by parading its nerdomanic tendencies for all to see and making it lovable.
You might think this marginally insane. You might think that I am suffering from delusions of brandy.
Yet "The Big Bang Theory" has proved to be one of the most popular TV shows, not because the nerds are hidden away, but because they are in full view, with a beautiful counterpoint in a real person called Penny.
Imagine taking your kids, your lover, or your granny into a Google store and having them actually enjoy learning something about, say, comic books or Hermann von Helmholtz.
In fact, wouldn't it be an excellent human resources idea, as well as a stimulus to make more uplifting products, if every Google engineer had to spend a certain period working in a Google retail store?
Mountain View should surely mine the more lofty, fantastic elements of its reality in order to create something unique and dramatic.
Otherwise, its stores might simply be accused of being Apple rip-offs.
And you know where that will ultimately end up. Yes, in front of Judge Lucy Koh.