Updated from 9:38 a.m. EST to provide spokeswoman comments regarding retail store plans in the thirteenth paragraph.



) --


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is said to be following in


(AAPL) - Get Report

footsteps, as the search giant focuses on foot traffic.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based firm's reportedly thinking about opening up its own line of retail stores, according to


. The stores will sell Google-branded hardware, according to the report, similar to Apple's massively successful Apple Stores.

Citing sources familiar with the matter,


reported that the first stores could open in major metropolitan areas by the end by the end of the year.

Will Google Retail Suck as Bad as Microsoft Stores?

Google has become more like Apple in recent years, moving away from just software and services, and developing its own hardware. The company's Nexus 7 tablet, for example, has been a hit. Google now has its

own lineup of Nexus products

; a Nexus 4 smartphone, as well as the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets. The company's also working on Google Glasses, which it showed off at its Google I/O developer conference in June 2012.

Google acquired

Motorola Mobility

last year, and is reportedly working on its own secret "iPhone killer," dubbed the X phone.

Aside from hardware, Google has plenty of Android-based devices to show off.




and others use the Android operating system for their smartphones and tablets.


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even uses a version of Android on its Kindle Fire tablets, though the look is drastically different from most Android-based tablets.

Google could also show off various of Chromebook-based computers. Chromebooks run on Google Chrome's operating system, and are designed to compete with Apple's MacBook Air laptops.

Google may well have noted the success of Apple's Retail Stores, and believe that it can replicate the model. At the

most recent

Goldman Sachs

Technology and Internet conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook credited Apple's retail outlets for the success of the iPad, saying that the tech giant's network of stores helped customers understand the product when it was announced in 2010.

"Because here's a product coming out. It's different. People's view of a tablet -- thetablet that was ingrained in their mind was this heavy thing that the Hertz guy was holding that no one wanted," Cook said, when referencing the iPad's success. "But our store is a place to go and explore and discover and try it out and see what it will do. And I don't think that the launch would have been nearly as successful without stores that welcome people in at 10 million a week and show this."

Aside from the ability to show off company products, Google may be eyeing the tremendous revenue potential that Apple has demonstrated with its stores. At the conference, Cook noted that the average Apple Store (Apple has more than 400 of them around the world), racked up over $50 million in revenue last year. In total, the stores hosted over 370 million people.

Other companies besides Google have attempted to exploit retail. There were the


stores in the 1990s that demonstrated success for a period of time.


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has also tried its own retail approach, albeit with mixed results.

Google's reported change in thinking comes just a few months after Sameer Samat, Google Shopping's vice president of product management, told


that Google doesn't intend to go the retail route. "We aren't planning on being a retailer," Samat said in an interview. "We don't view being a retailer right now as the right decision."

Google responded to


request for comment in an email, saying the company doesn't "comment on rumor or speculation."

Shares of Google were higher in Tuesday trade, gaining 1.29% to $803.10.

--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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