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Who is Google?

No there’s no grammatical error there in the title of the post. Well, although there is, it’s intentional. Think about it. Since the time Google announced its open source android operating system for mobiles, people have wondered — why is Google launching a product that has no apparent revenue model?

The question has come to the forefront once again with the launch of T mobile’s HTC G1. The phone is pretty nifty and we especially like the flip-slider opening keyboard. Android works fairly smooth too. But coming back to what Google is up to — perhaps its recent announcement that the iPhone and T-Mobile G1 can now show Google search ads sheds a little light on the question. Is Google then going the Microsoft way? Monopoly being the name of the game. For instance, reports suggest T-Mobile’s G1 works fine with many online services, but it works especially well with Google’s. It delivers a lot of the basic core functions and of course, tight integration with Google’s products, including Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Calendar. Having said that, there is also a lack of basic features like video recording. Is it a miss out, or more like an opportunity for independent app developers?

Google has come up with a mobile application store of its own, called Android Market ala iPhone. Besides, some of Google’s latest antics include asking broadband carriers to create a special fastlane exclusively for its content. This would be done by placing Google servers in the ISP’s technical facilities. Another somewhat alarming warning sign is the removal of Firefox as the default browser in the Google code pack.

In a recent US survey of the top 20 most trusted companies, Google has fallen off the list entirely from its spot at 10 on last year’s list. Google’s fall is probably due to the big company syndrome, where people just start trusting big companies less. Perhaps Google should treat these signs as early warnings. Besides this, there is a lot of fuss being kicked up about Google Maps post the Mumbai terror attacks. An Indian lawyer filed a petition in the Mumbai High Court, arguing that Google Earth and similar services “aid terrorists in plotting attacks”. The petition is demanding a removal of Google Earth satellite images of India, or at the very least, blur images of sensitive places in the country, such as Indian nuclear plants and defense establishments. And it’s not just Indians. A group of Japanese lawyers and professors have also asked Google to stop providing detailed street level images of Japanese cities. Google provides this through its Street View service, which offers ground-level, 360-degree views of streets in 12 Japanese cities and is also offered for some 50 cities in the United States and certain areas in Europe.

As for the Android, we’ll wait and watch.