$4 million is barely a drop in the bucket for Google, which racked up $16 billion in revenue in the June quarter alone. But $4 million is the amount Google just burned on its mystery barge, which is reportedly about to be dismantled after Google had tried to use it as a floating showroom. Google’s West Coast barge has been towed to Turner’s Island Cargo Terminal in South Portland, Oregon, where the massive floating experiment is set to be dismantled. The 250-foot barge contained 60 shipping containers stacked into a four-story building that Google had planned to use as a reconfigurable private showroom for its various products such as Google Glass and Chromebook laptop computers.
Google may have wanted its infamous floating showrooms to grab the spotlight from Apple’s popular retail stores, but it’s a safe bet Apple CEO Tim Cook hasn’t lost any sleep over the Google Barges. That’s likely even more true now that it appears Google is getting out of the barge business, at least on the East Coast. A local paper in Portland, Maine, reported Thursday that the search giant had sold the unfinished barge project it had there, and that the barge will be scrapped. Constructed in secret in a huge hangar in San Francisco Bay and in New London, Conn., in 2013, two large Google Barges were intended to serve as play and demonstration spaces where VIPs, and one day the public, could check out the latest projects from Google X, the lab working on big-idea projects like Google Glass and self-driving cars. But the barge project remains in dry dock — neither the one in Maine nor the one now housed in Stockton, Calif., has opened. That makes Google’s dream of operating a destination retail experience just that: a dream. “It’s unlikely they could [have ever stolen] Apple’s thunder,” said Horace Dediu, an independent technology-industry analyst who frequently covers Apple. “When you do technical projects, or have ideas like this, you should have a good taste of what people want, and that’s not something I’ve seen Google succeed with. If it’s about launch projects that resonate, that’s the magic of Apple, and the lack of magic with Google.”
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