Mystery of Google’s barges revealed

Updated 03 November 2013
0

Mystery of Google’s barges revealed

SAN FRANCISCO: Google Inc’s mysterious barges, which prompted fevered speculation about everything from offshore data centers to floating research labs, may serve a more prosaic role as upscale party venues and showrooms.
The multi-story vessels made out of stacked shipping containers, one moored in the San Francisco Bay and the other at the Portland, Maine harbor, are invitation-only luxury showrooms for 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 to the report, which cited unnamed sources.
The existence of the floating barges surfaced last week, when technology website CNET theorized that the San Francisco vessel might be a floating data center that would house banks of computers. Google was granted a patent for a water-based data center in 2009.
Google has declined to comment on the matter, refusing even to acknowledge its affiliation with the vessels. But the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, Larry Goldzband, told Reuters his agency has had several meetings with Google officials about the barge in recent months.
Google has gone to great lengths to keep the details of the barges secret, with chain link fences and security guards encircling the pier where one of the barges is under construction at San Francisco’s Treasure Island.
At least one Coast Guard employee has had to sign a non-disclosure agreement with the Internet giant, as did another person who would identify himself only as an inspector for a California government agency, Reuters reported earlier this week.
The project is being personally directed by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, according to KPIX. Brin heads up the Google division developing Google Glass, a cross between a mobile computer and eyeglasses that allows users to surf the Web and record video.
On Monday, Google said that it would expand the availability of the $1,500 Glass devices. Google has allowed a limited number of carefully selected early adopters to buy test versions of the device 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 the wearable devices and its other hardware as it competes with more established hardware makers such as Apple Inc, which has hundreds of stylish retail outlets.
The Google shipping containers can be quickly assembled and disassembled, according to KPIX, allowing the showrooms to be transported by truck, rail or barge to destinations such as ski resorts and beaches.


Huawei in public test as it unveils sanction-hit phone

Updated 19 September 2019

Huawei in public test as it unveils sanction-hit phone

  • Hit by US sanctions, Huawei's Mate 30 will not be allowed to use Google’s Play Store
  • Household-name services like WhatsApp, Instagram and Google Maps will be unavailable.
BERLIN: Chinese tech giant Huawei launches its latest high-end smartphone in Munich on Thursday, the first that could be void of popular Google apps because of US sanctions.
Observers are asking whether a phone without the Silicon Valley software that users have come to depend on can succeed, or whether Huawei will have found a way for buyers to install popular apps despite the constraints.
The company has maintained a veil of secrecy over its plans, set to be dropped at a 1200 GMT press conference revealing the Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro models.
Huawei, targeted directly by the United States as part of a broader trade conflict with Beijing, was added to a “blacklist” in Washington in May.
Since then, it has been illegal for American firms to do business with the Chinese firm, suspected of espionage by President Donald Trump and his administration.
As a result, the new Mate will run on a freely available version of Android, the world’s most-used phone operating system that is owned by the search engine heavyweight.
While Mate 30 owners will experience little difference in the use of the system, the lack of Google’s Play Store — which provides access to hundreds of thousands of third-party apps and games as well as films, books and music — could hobble them.
Household-name services like WhatsApp, Instagram and Google Maps will be unavailable.
The tech press reports that this yawning gap in functionality has left some sellers reluctant to stock the new phones, fearing a wave of rapid-fire returns from dissatisfied customers.
Huawei president Richard Yu said at Berlin’s IFA electronics fair this month that his engineers found a “very simple” way to install the hottest apps without going via the Play Store.
Huawei could offer its own app store in a preliminary version, setting itself up as a competitor to the dominant Apple and Google offerings, observers speculate.
Over the longer term, the company could build out a similar “ecosystem” of devices, apps and services as the Silicon Valley companies that would bind users more closely to it.
The world’s second-largest smartphone maker after Samsung, Huawei earlier this month presented its proprietary operating system HarmonyOS, a potential replacement for Android.
The Mate 30 will not yet have HarmonyOS installed.
But it could make for a new round in the decades-old “OS wars” between Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s Mac OS, then Android versus Apple’s iOS.
Meanwhile, Eric Xu, current holder of Huawei’s rotating chief executive chair, has urged Europe to foster an alternative to Google and Apple.
That could provide an opening for Huawei to build up Europe’s market of 500 million well-off consumers as a stronghold against American rivals.
“If Europe had its own ecosystem for smart devices, Huawei would use it... that would resolve the problem of European digital dependency” on the United States, Xu told German business daily Handelsblatt.
He added that his company would be prepared to invest in developing such joint European-Chinese projects.