Is Google's Mysterious Barge Actually a Floating Glass Store?

After an odd but engrossing CNET story last week, everybody's wondering what the strange barge with ties to Google is doing docked near San Francisco. At first, it looked like the 250-foot-long structure was a next generation data center in-the-making, but CBS and CNET sources now say it's a floating Google Glass store. Weird huh?

The Glass store theory popped up late Friday in a report from local CBS affiliate KPIX 5. Indeed, Google was building a giant barge just off Treasure Island, but instead of a data center, the network says it's "a floating marketing center, a kind of giant Apple store, if you will." CNET followed up a couple days later with their own tacit confirmation. One of their tipsters also claimed that "the idea is in part that Google wants to launch stores without looking like they are trying to chase Apple." Apparently, Google's going to float this barge around the country, selling Google Glass out the portholes or whatever.

It gets weirder. As those on the West Coast scratched their heads over the Treasure Island barge, an identical vessel was spotted just off the coast of Portland, Maine. Like its California counterpart (registration number "BAL 0010") the Maine barge ("BAL 0011") held four stories of shipping containers that looked like they could be used for a data center. Indeed, Google even has a patent for such a floating data center, one that could be used in emergency situations. That said, if Google is planning to do some Mark Twain-ish Google Glass boat tour, it would make sense to build one on the East Coast, too.

It'll be a little while before we know for sure what the heck Google—and it does seem almost certain that this is Google—is doing building barges near random American cities. While it feels like some sort of alien invasion, the mystique surrounding the project does seem like some sort of marketing effort. And God knows, Google likes its ridiculous marketing efforts. [CNET, Portland Press Herald, KPIX 5]