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What’s Google up to?

Google has been busy lately acquiring companies (blogger, picasa, keyhole) and developing software (gmail, desktop search). Where’s Google headed with all this and what else do they need to get there?

One common theme across the latest movements from Google (picasa, keyhole, desktop search) is Microsoft Windows. All these programs are Windows-only. Even the GMail notifier developed by Google to let users know when they have new GMail is windows only.

I certainly would’ve expected Google to be more web-centric in their approach to content management and generation tools, but it seems they have their sights on Microsoft’s playground. This certainly requires more thought.

One thing is clear though, judging from Google’s shopping spree: they not only want to “organize the world’s information,” they also want to help you create it. They also want to “make it [the world’s information] universally accessible and useful” which is were these Windows-only acquisitions stop making sense, unless they’re just stepping stones to test the waters.

Keyhole is an interesting purchase. They manage terabytes of geographical information, while Google manages terabytes of content. Play with Keyhole for a couple of hours and you begin to understand how powerful this combination is. Google has already gone into the local-search arena, meaning you can find stuff in your city. Keyhole would let Google map all that stuff (say, all Italian restaurants within 10 blocks of my place) and show you a picture of your neighborhood with the restaurants indicated. Add a recommendation engine and we’re talking business.

You could also tie Picasa with Keyhole and create a map showing where you took some vacation pictures. Add a GPS to the mix if you want to make it even more straightforward. Blogger is already tied into Picasa, so you’ll eventually have some very sophisticated vacation albums (or store locations if you want to see the $ side).

Or open Google News, click on the geolocation icon next to a headline and immediately open a fly-by map of the area in question.

So what’s missing from Google’s master plan?

Well, first of all, an RSS reader – web-based. NewsGator Online and Bloglines come to mind. Connect it to GMail (so you can send stories to your friends and check your email via an RSS feed), Orkut (subscribe to groups as RSS feeds), blogger (post interesting stories to your blog), Google, Desktop Search, etc. The Google RSS reader would, in essence, be the Google Browser. Your window into the world’s information. So i believe Google’s next product (developed or acquired) will be some form of RSS reader, ideally web-based. (That or a GMessenger, 😉 ).

Second, I tend to agree with Technocapitalist, and y: Google should have acquired Flickr. Flickr still needs some work, but as a content generating and organizing system it’s huge. These guys are so cool you can even subscribe to different keywords so you’ll get any new photos posted under that keyword via RSS. I’m not sure why Google went with Picasa, which relies on locally stored photos, instead of something like Flickr which opens your photos to the world (or just your friends and family if you prefer).

If you can, play around with Keyhole for a while -they offer a 7-day trial (btw, wake up guys… 7 days? What happened to 30-day trials?). Be sure to check out the Keyhole BBS to truly understand the power and potential of this application.

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