This rumor definitely has to be one of the oddest we’ve heard in some time, but it appears that Google wants to get into the check-in, retailer coupons and payment business in a big bad way.  Apparently the company wants a chunk of these business markets so badly that it is willing to plunk down a huge chunk of change to make sure small businesses get the devices for free to launch the new plan.

According to TechCrunch, Google is rumored to be distributing up to eight million “mobile devices” that will allow customers to check-in to locations, write reviews and possibly even pay for purchases via Google Checkout.  The number is being disputed by a secondary source, and the idea that the devices will be distributed for free is not supposedly set in stone as of yet, but it does appear that something is definitely up with the Big G wanting to get into the location based services field.

Google LogoThere are a couple of things that are really odd about this whole scenario. First off, why are the devices being referred to as “mobile devices”?  I can picture some sort of kiosk, but is this some sort of device that retailers can say, “Oh, here you go, please wander around our business with this.”  As Silicon Alley Insider rightly points out, how many of these would end up getting lost or stolen?

Why would retailers be interested in using Google Checkout, which is essentially a glorified credit card processing service, when the vast majority already have merchant accounts?  Unless Google offers really competitive rates for processing fees there isn’t going to be a lot of motivation for retailers to give up their current accounts that are usually integrated with their point of sale systems.  It’s possible, it just doesn’t seem very likely.

As for the third aspect, the eight million number could only be true if they were charging for them.  Lets say they do give them away, and we put a conservative manufacturing price on them of $100, we’re looking at $800 million being spent by the company on an unproven project.  Google typically only spends that kind of money if its acquiring an established company.  It would also be a gigantic role of the dice on not only an unproven project, but a market space that hasn’t even remotely proven itself yet.  Is it really that much to go after Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare and Gowalla?

Google probably is up to something in the space, but we find the current details very suspect.

What say you?  Is Google about to invade the “real world” in a significant way?