Finally, we've got a plausible explanation for the
) mystery barge floating off the coast of San Francisco. It will be
a showroom. Okay, it'll be a vast and extremely cool, celebrity
architect-designed floating showroom, complete with tall sails that
look like fish fins. But a showroom is what it will be, and while
it's still under wraps for now, you'll be able to see the same kind
of stuff in a more prosaic setting-that is, a mall in Paramus, New
Google wants to stand out from the competition during the upcoming
holiday season, and in the real world, not just the virtual one.
) has gotten the real-world bug and is opening temporary -- or
"pop-up" -- stores for the season, including an exposed
brick-walled outpost in NoLita, a hipster enclave of New York City.
Google has just announced it will open
showrooms in six cities across the US. They are designed as "play
zones" stocked with Google-branded toys like Nexus 7 phones and
Chromebook tablets. (Fans are already griping about the apparent
omission of a Google Glass display.)
These are not cash-and-carry stores, though products can be ordered
there for home delivery. Each will feature a giant walk-in snow
globe that can be used as a setting for slow-motion videos to take
The Google barge does not seem destined to be a Winter Wonderlab,
at least not this winter. However, the mystery barge may well be
more of the same concept on a grander and more ambitious scale.
SFGate.com filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get a look
at the plans, filed with the city, that
define the barge
as a "temporary technology exhibit space" for local organizations.
Presumably those local organizations might include Google and its
latest branded gadgets. A Google press release confirmed plans for
"an interactive space where people can learn about new technology."
At least that makes more sense than earlier speculation that the
barge was a floating party space or an ocean-cooled data-backup
center. In any case, the barge remains under wraps for the present,
with no firm opening date or details.
The Intel Store is just as surprising in its own way. Until now,
Intel has seemed content to be a discreet sticker affixed to a
keyboard, the "Intel Inside" that is always overshadowed by another
On Nov. 23, Intel will open its first store in Manhattan's
downtown, to show off some of the gadgets that are powered by
Intel's latest chips. It's one of a number of temporary pop-up
stores for the season, though Intel's reportedly will stick around
until late January to take advantage of year-end bonuses and other
Intel is starting its
foray into retail
modestly, with stores in just two other cities, Chicago and Venice,
California. But it's promising a lot, too, from live programming in
the evenings to loaner gadgets for home tryouts.
Google and Intel seem to be at opposite ends of the
consumer-awareness spectrum. Nobody doesn't know what Google is.
Plenty of otherwise well-informed people might be hard-pressed to
explain what Intel does, even though it is ranked ninth on this
of best global brands.
Still, both companies are in need of some visibility these days.
Their products are buried in the many brands available at
) stores, in the real and the virtual worlds.
Google is fighting itself, as its Nexus 7 and Chromebook products
compete against products by
(OTCMKTS:SSNLF) and other companies that use Google's Android
figures from IDC
indicate that Android is now the overwhelming leader in the
smartphone market, with 81% of all shipments in the last quarter.
But Samsung is the dominant brand, at just under 40% share of those
Intel is virtually invisible unless a shopper reads the device
specs. It could use the brand recognition and respect, now that
it's struggling to catch up to competitors who focused earlier on
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