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Nexus One: Welcome to the Googlesphere

A googol is the number represented by 1 followed by 100 zeroes, or 10 to the power of 100. It's fitting that Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page chose to name their company after this incomprehensibly large number. With Google rolling out new applications, services and now hardware at such a dizzying pace, maybe it won’t be long until there’s a googol of Google products.

The latest, of course, is the Nexus One, a mobile phone that Googol announced yesterday. It’s not just a smartphone, it’s a superphone (which has led to numerous jokes, including one about how the superphone has to go into a phone booth to change into its secret identity). Google is a bit hazy about the difference between a smartphone and a superphone, merely saying the Nexus One is “as powerful as your laptop computer of three to four years ago”.

I won’t go into its specifications. If you’re interested in that sort of technoporn, you can find it here.

So far, the Nexus One is not available through any Canadian carriers and if you go to the Nexus One page at you'll be told that "Sorry, the Nexus One phone is not available in your country." If you do manage to purchase one, you can use any GSM SIM card with it, so you should be able to get it to work here in the Great White North. But I won’t be rushing online to get one myself -- I’m happy with my iPhone.

The release of the Nexus One has made start to wonder about the number of products that are emerging from Google. 

There’s Google Search. Google News. Google Mail. Google Reader (an RSS feed aggregator.)  iGoogle. Google Maps. Google Earth. Google Books. Google Calendar. Google Translate. YouTube. Google Sites. Google Documents. Google Groups. Google Finance. Blogger. Orkut. Picasa. Google Talk. SketchUp. And if you go to googlelabs.com you’ll find all sorts of esoteric and mystifying applications, such as Fusion Tables. Google has even released its own web browser, Chrome, as well as mobile phone operating system, Android.

If you live in the U.K. or U.S. you can use Google PowerMeter to monitor your electricity use. And don’t think you’re free of Google if you go to a non-Google website. Chances are the text ads on the side of the site are powered by Google, as is the site’s search engine. Soon Google may even be monitoring your dirty laundry, literally -- a company called Touch Revolution is making Android-powered controllers to be used in washing machines, refrigerators and other home appliances.

Google makes its money mostly through advertising. It sells those ads by tracking its users’ interests across its affiliated sites and selling ads catering to those interests. For example, if you use Google Mail (Gmail) and you open an email inviting you to a cheese workshop, down the side of the Gmail screen will be a number of ads relating to milk, cheese and other words that the Google computers parsed from the email. The company’s motto is “Don’t be Evil”, but the reality is that Google is a company, devoted to make a profit. And who defines evil anyway? To some people, trolling through the content of emails or web searches in order to sell ads is evil.

The trouble is, Google’s products are so damn useful. Google Earth is awe-inspiring. Chrome is the fastest and most responsive of my three web browsers. Gmail is useful because it’s so easy to archive and retrieve old emails from anywhere. Google Maps outperforms its competitors because of its StreetView function. And so on. But I worry about becoming too Google-dependent, even as I reach out for the latest shiny new Google app. When Gmail goes down (as it does), my main non-work email account is useless. If I store my documents online with Google Documents, how safe and accessible are they?

I guess I'd better google that.

 

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