Google’s Barge Likely A Modular, Floating Retail Space, CBS Reports

Google caught some attention this past week for mooring a huge barge in SF Bay for mysterious purposes. Rumors have been flying about what that barge could be used for, with some suggesting it’s a floating data center, which Google does indeed have a patent for. But reports from a Bay Area local CBS affiliate and CNET suggest it’s a retail play, and now CBS is reporting (via 9to5Google) that as confirmed from multiple sources.

CBS affiliate KPIX 5 says that the barge will eventually include luxury showrooms for gadgets such as Google Glass, as well as a party deck, and provide hands-on experiences to select potential clients by invitation only. It’s the brainchild of Google X, the skunkworks at Google designed to build some of that company’s more experimental products and services, including Google Glass and self-driving cars, and it’s overseen by Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Brin is reportedly the driving force behind this retail barge experiment, and the purpose of the plan is to compete with Apple’s dominating retail presence, according to the CBS report.

While the barge doesn’t look like a luxury showroom at the moment, it’s built out of modular 40-foot shipping containers and is designed to be quickly torn down and put back together easily. It’s not a strictly seaborne affair, either – Google could reportedly assemble it on trucks or on freight trains, too, adding new meaning to the term “road show.”

CBS says that the barge’s launch has been delayed because of how it’s been designated by the U.S. Coast Guard, which is so far complying with Google’s apparent request that its purpose be kept secret.

Earlier this year, reports surfaced that suggested Google would begin opening its own retail stores in time for this year’s holiday season. A splashy launch of a naval retail outlet aimed at high-value clientele would definitely be an interesting way to kick-off wider retail efforts, and this will help Google do more to evangelize established lines of business like Chrome OS and Nexus devices, as well as more experimental projects like Google Glass, which will need plenty more consumer exposure if it ever hopes to be a more broadly appealing device.

Image credit: CBS KPIX 5

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