The Google barge reminds me of a postmodern artwork I saw once, a telephone. You picked it up, expecting to hear something. But you heard nothing. This disappointed you. That was the point of the artwork: it symbolized modern technology’s failure to live up to our expectations.
Google launched its barge project in corporate secrecy. C/Net got wind of it and leaked the company was up to something. Maintaining secrecy, Google merely refused to comment and boom! the barge became the subject of feverish speculation. In postmodern art, the point is not the artwork but the interaction with the viewer.
As for the objet d’art itself, the barge six-month lease at the port. It may not stay that long, it may stay longer. Google’s subcontractors may work on it here, and they may not (Google’s tongue-in-cheek statement says it’s here for a “rest”).
Sooner or later, the barge must end its career as an enigma and get a real job. Best guess is that it is a floating retail store. But the barges (there may ultimately be three) have reportedly cost Google $35 million so far. And they are far from open for business.
Google may end up wishing it had just built traditional stores, like Apple does.
Anyway, the Conventions and Vistors Bureau set up a Google Barge web page.
NPR did a good piece on why Google likes the Valley.
The San Jose Merc-News framed it as negatively as possible.