A mysterious Google barge shows up in San Francisco Bay

10/31/2013 8:18 PM

10/31/2013 8:19 PM

There is a mysterious barge floating in San Francisco Bay with Google’s fingerprints all over it. The question is what Google wants to do with it, and Google won’t say.

The barge is being operated by Google, according to a person with knowledge of it who would speak only anonymously because the project is secret. But few other details are known. Google declined to comment.

The barge has generated intense interest in the city. First, there was speculation that it was a floating data center, based on shoe-leather reporting by Cnet, a past Google patent for a floating data center and theories about water as a cooling source.

Over the weekend, a report by KPIX, CBS’ Bay Area affiliate, said the barge could be a floating store to sell Google Glass, the Internet-connected eye wear. According to this theory, the company reportedly wants to move the store from port to port, anchoring it near cities. A similar barge has been spotted in the harbor at Portland, Maine.

What is known for sure is that Google is increasing production and sales of the consumer version of Glass, which will be broadly available next year, according to the company. On Monday, it said that the people who had been chosen to buy a test device could invite three people to sign up, too. The company also said its latest version of Glass would be compatible with prescription lenses.

Google has said it wants to sell Glass in an unusual and personalized way – and with a nice view.

Google has been searching for a way to expand that type of experience when it sells the consumer version of Glass next year, Kelly Liang, the director of business development for Glass, said in an interview last summer.

“The worst place to demo Glass is in a conference room,” Liang said. “Glass is all about being out there, having fun, being active.”

Could that describe a floating store?

That remains to be seen. But as Google prepares to sell more hardware, including Glass, it has hired more retail executives, including recruiting some from rival tech companies with big retail presences, according to people with knowledge of Google’s recent personnel moves. (And Warby Parker - the eyewear company that Google has turned to before for ideas - has shown the success of a traveling eyeglass store with its school bus that traverses the country.)

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