Bricks-and-mortar retailing is dead, right? So why would the world’s biggest online company want to set up shop?

Google is shifting gears and wants to be seen as a company that makes products, not just provides services. And that could mean big things if the well-placed rumours of retail stores are right. Consider Google Glass.

The tech industry has been intrigued by Google’s vision of wearable computing for a while now, ever since chief executive Larry Page showed off Google Glass — a pair of shades with a Google interface that connects you to the internet. The company says the device could be ready for sale by the end of the year, if all goes well. What was a science-fiction idea is now becoming real.

A select few have their hands on the first pairs — including Josh Topolsky at The Verge. And he answers perhaps the biggest question: why would anyone want to wear this thing in public?

“Those perfect moments watching your favourite band play or your kid’s recital are either being captured via the lens of a device that sits between you and the actual experience, or being interrupted by constant notifications. Pings from the outside world, breaking into what used to be whole, personal moments …

“You still have to grapple with asking for directions with Glass, but removing the barrier of being completely distracted by the device in your hand is significant, and actually receiving directions as you walk and even more significant. In the city, Glass makes you feel more powerful, better equipped, and definitely less diverted …

“I walked away convinced this wasn’t just one of Google’s weird flights of fancy.”

Topolsky predicts the biggest feature to take off will be the ability to take photos and videos and send them to other people in real time. And despite feeling self-conscious, he says using the product just while walking around was quite useful. We probably once thought carrying around mobile phones was pretty stupid, too …

This is Google’s first attempt — apart from its Nexus phone — at being a branded manufacturer. And there’s more to come: the Google Chromebook, an ultrabook running the Chrome OS, is a high-end laptop branded as a Google product.

The Google corner store suddenly makes more sense.

It could be a failure, of course. There are so many handsets running the Android OS it would be too hard to pick which ones to show off. Too many products in a store is a bad thing, which is probably why Google might sprinkle a little Apple magic when deciding on the layout of its stores. Apple’s mantra is simple: less is more. It shows off fewer products for a greater impact.

This is exactly why Google is pursuing its own branded strategy, and it’s why the company has been so hesitant to put its name on products. By focusing its Google stores on only branded products, it can ensure a better retail experience. It’s a solid fit.

*This article was first published at SmartCompany