[caption id="attachment_6237" align="aligncenter" width="618"] Cloud-centric Google is getting involved in real-world shipping with BufferBox.[/caption] Google has acquired Waterloo, Ontario-based BufferBox, which lets customers ship their packages to secure pick-up stations. A Nov. 30 note on the BufferBox Blog offered precious few details about the acquisition or Google’s ultimate plans for the service. “As online shopping becomes a bigger part of how you buy products, we look forward to playing a part in bringing that experience to the next level,” read that note. “We are happy to share that it will be business as usual for our users and we are looking forward to continuing to build out the service.” Meanwhile, a Google spokesperson told TechCrunch: “We want to remove as much friction as possible from the shopping experience, while helping consumers save time and money.” BufferBox, apparently, “has a lot of great ideas around how to do that.” The publication also heard (via unnamed sources) that Google paid around $17 million for its latest acquisition, but the actual price remains officially undisclosed. As pointed out by several online sources, including ZDNet, BufferBox resembles Amazon Locker, which allows Amazon customers to receive their Amazon packages at various locations. BufferBox’s founders publicly claim that they came up with the business model before Amazon. Indeed, both BufferBox and Amazon Locker offer similar services. Each sends customers a unique code for unlocking the compartment holding the package. Amazon keeps packages for three weekdays—virtually the same as BufferBox, which holds them for 72 hours (excluding Sundays and holidays). The main difference is that Amazon Locker is meant for Amazon products, while BufferBox will hold anything accepted by regular mail distribution. For the moment, BufferBox’s services are largely confined to a stretch of Canada around Waterloo and Toronto, whereas Amazon has lockers in several locations across the United States. The question is what Google intends for BufferBox. In recent quarters, the search-engine giant has become more interested in consumer products, as evidenced by its new line of Nexus smartphones and tablets. And certainly the company has a need to compete with Amazon, one of its largest cloud rivals. Will BufferBox’s business model play a role in either of those endeavors?   Image: BufferBox