Google confirms selling a mystery barge

Alas, poor Google barge. We hardly knew you.

Google confirmed Friday that it’s scrapping at least one of the mysterious floating tech showrooms that drew headlines, speculation and some ridicule last fall. The giant Internet company wouldn’t comment on the fate of a second barge, now sitting idle at the Port of Stockton.

But plans for an ambitious tour of San Francisco Bay and other waterfront sites are still on hold. “It just sits there like it did the day it arrived,” said Stockton port executive director Richard Aschieris, who added that there has been no signs of any work on the floating platform.

The news comes amid signs that Google may be rethinking its strategy for selling Glass, its futuristic computer headset, as a mass-market consumer product. While the company has said only that the barge would be “an interactive space where people can learn about new technology,” it was rumored to be intended as a traveling showroom for Glass and other cutting-edge Google products.

Google at one time owned four ocean-going barges, ranging in length from 250 to 260 feet, and had parked two of them on each coast of the United States. It hired contractors to build unusually shaped, four-story structures on two of the barges — one moored in San Francisco Bay and the other in the harbor at Portland, Maine.

But the company has been tight-lipped about details of the barge project. After a Portland newspaper reported that local officials said the East Coast vessel was going to be sold and dismantled, Google issued a statement Friday that said only: “We can confirm that the barge has been sold.”

Stockton port officials said they haven’t heard from Google since it moved the West Coast barge to their city in March, after it ran into problems getting construction and permit approvals from the U.S. Coast Guard and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

“They’ve paid their dock fee, so we’re happy,” said Aschieris. Officials say Google paid standard rates of about $12,000 a month to keep the barge in Stockton at least through October.

Meanwhile, conservation commission Executive Director Larry Goldzband said he hasn’t heard any update from Google, which would need his agency’s approval to park the barge in San Francisco Bay.

Google has also been vague about its plans for Glass, which the company had previously said it would begin selling as a consumer product in 2014. Shortly after Google hired a veteran marketing executive to take over the program in May, co-founder Sergey Brin told a tech audience that he hoped to begin selling “by the end of the year, but I’m not sure.”

While it has recently touted other wearable gadgets, such as smart watches, Google has continued to release new frames and software for people who purchased Glass for $1,500 through limited programs.

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