Google's mystery barges revealed as luxury showrooms with party deck -report


By Alexei Oreskovic

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Google Inc's mysterious barges, which prompted fevered speculation abouteverything from offshore data centers to floating research labs,may serve a more prosaic role as upscale party venues andshowrooms.

The multi-story vessels made out of stacked shippingcontainers, one moored in the San Francisco Bay and the other atthe Portland, Maine harbor, are invitation-only luxury showroomsfor Google's Glass wearable computers and other gadgets,according to local San Francisco TV station KPIX.

The structures will feature a top-floor "party deck,"complete with "bars, lanais and other comforts," according tothe report, which cited unnamed sources.

The existence of the floating barges surfaced last week,when technology website CNET theorized that the San Franciscovessel might be a floating data center that would house banks ofcomputers. Google was granted a patent for a water-based datacenter in 2009.

Google has declined to comment on the matter, refusing evento acknowledge its affiliation with the vessels. But theexecutive director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation andDevelopment Commission, Larry Goldzband, told Reuters his agencyhas had several meetings with Google officials about the bargein recent months.

Google has gone to great lengths to keep the details of thebarges secret, with chain link fences and security guardsencircling the pier where one of the barges is underconstruction at San Francisco's Treasure Island.

At least one Coast Guard employee has had to sign anon-disclosure agreement with the Internet giant, as did anotherperson who would identify himself only as an inspector for aCalifornia government agency, Reuters reported earlier thisweek.

The project is being personally directed by Googleco-founder Sergey Brin, according to KPIX. Brin heads up theGoogle division developing Google Glass, a cross between amobile computer and eyeglasses that allows users to surf the Weband record video.

On Monday, Google said that it would expand the availabilityof the $1,500 Glass devices. Google has allowed a limited numberof carefully selected early adopters to buy test versions of thedevice this year, and will now allow each of those customers to"invite" three friends to purchase the gadget.

The new showrooms could help Google build buzz for thewearable devices and its other hardware as it competes with moreestablished hardware makers such as Apple Inc, whichhas hundreds of stylish retail outlets.

The Google shipping containers can be quickly assembled anddisassembled, according to KPIX, allowing the showrooms to betransported by truck, rail or barge to destinations such as skiresorts and beaches.

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