TECH TALK: Internet Tea Leaves: Googles Googlies

August saw four announcements from Google, which set off a flurry of speculation and discussion. It announced the acquisition of Android, a start-up working in the mobile space. It then said that it is planning to raise $4 billion in a secondary offering to add to its $3 billion cash. It launched Google Desktop (version 2) and Google Talk last week. The Google Desktop comes with a sidebar takes up screen real estate on the desktop and provides a view of items of interest to users, automatically learning about the user. Google Talk is the companys foray into instant messaging and broader person-to-person communications.

Business Week summarised it as follows: Talk about ambition. Google appears to be contemplating forays into everything from Wi-Fi Internet access and mobile devices to operating systems and e-commerce.

The New York Times led the chorus of dreamers:

A Google-branded smart phone has long been a personal pet project of Page, and this year Google invested $2 million in a project by Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Laboratory, to develop a $100 wireless laptop. The smart-phone idea would be a way to extend Google’s reach and give it a more extensive connection with its users by offering Google on a multipurpose mobile device.

Google has also attracted wide attention in other communications fields, both with its purchase of fiber optic cable capacity and with several quiet moves it has made in experimenting in wireless technologiesThe idea that Google might try to build an independent national Wi-Fi network has been discussed, but network industry specialists say such an idea is far-fetched.

Another article added: Google has already added free e-mail, mapping, news aggregation, and digital-photo management to its offerings, bringing it into competition in each case with two or more rivals. On Wednesday, it announced the introduction of an instant-messaging system. And its plans for a new stock issue are fueling speculation that it is preparing to enter any number of other markets, from services for mobile phone users to an online payment service that would compete with PayPalAdd to that list an Internet-based phone system and several products that would be directly aimed at Microsoft, including a Google browser and a software offering that would compete with Microsoft Office.

So, even as the China events were being digested, Google turned on the heat on its rivals with its offerings. What is Google up to? What is the companys masterplan? In reading about what people have to say, we can get a good idea of the future of the Internet in its next decade. From the Indian Internet point of view, the two Chinese events will have greater importance. But from the overall evolution of the Internet, what Google can and will do will perhaps be more far-reaching.

So, as August gives way to September and the rains slowly ebb away in Mumbai, well start a journey looking first at what the talk of the [global] town is around Google, and then put that thinking in context around what it means for us in India.

Tomorrow: The Metaphor

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.