The New Google: Internet Giant Opens Up About Real-Time and Local Search, Cloud Computing, and Data Liberation

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improvements,” he says. In 2009, there were more than 100 major feature launches across Google Apps—things like video chat and Gmail offline. He says Google will “continue to emphasize the communication offerings.” Besides advancing Gmail and Calendar, that includes polishing up Google Docs and rounding out its suite of features. Norton says Google is also looking to expand its collaborative software offerings, including products for large businesses in the area of interoperability with security systems for authentication.

Bottom line: it sounds like Google is making the transition from focusing on free consumer cloud products to putting more emphasis on paid cloud offerings for enterprises.

Data liberation. This is a growing effort within the company to allow consumers to more easily export their data from Google products like Blogger, Google Maps, Google Docs, Chrome, and App Engine (developers’ user data). It might sound like PR-friendly stuff, but there’s a deeper and more interesting innovation strategy here.

Brian Fitzpatrick, an open-source software vet, heads up the two-year-old effort from Google’s Chicago offices. The basic idea is to help users get their files and other data out of Google’s cloud so they can switch them to other systems if they want to. “Most people don’t think about data liberation until it’s too late,” Fitzpatrick says. “We hope if you leave us for one product today, you’ll try another product tomorrow.”

Beyond “doing the right thing for users,” he says, there’s another motivation. “We as a company work hard on things like search. If users are locked into your products, you get more complacent. If it’s easier for someone to leave, you’ll be motivated to bust your butt, and make your products better.”

So there you have it. Google thinks this sort of openness about customers’ data will make the company work harder to keep them. Fitzpatrick says he doesn’t know of other companies that have a published initiative to do this.

He says his biggest challenge now isn’t the engineering, it’s raising awareness. “It’s hard to get people to think about why this is important,” he says. But it fits into the notion of how consumers and businesses will take care of all their data as more of it migrates to the cloud—and how Google wants to be in charge of organizing the world’s information, every step of the way.

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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  • Keen to find out whether any details on the Yelp deal demise were gleaned? Next installment?

  • Shyam Kapur

    I appreciated this write-up very much. You are very good at summarizing the key points of your discussions. It is also good to see that innovation is alive at Google even though it is no longer a small company. I am very excited about what the future holds as I see innovation taking the front seat at more & more companies big and small. My creation TipTop http://FeelTipTop.com is based on technology way superior to anything anyone else has. To promote TipTop’s products, we need help of folks like you. Would you not want to spend a bit of time understanding TipTop and seeing why I believe it is going to be a big part of the Future of Search?

  • Jim, thanks for writing—I’ll let you know if I find out anything interesting about the Yelp deal. Shyam, I’ll check out your search engine when I get a chance. Thanks.

    Greg