This is the question asked by Robert X. Cringely, among others, in an excellent article detailing some of the strategies Google deploys...and how they compare to Microsoft's.
Like Microsoft's standard practice of cozying up to a startup to learn its tricks, only to then turn on it in the market. Google recently did this with Free-411, an information service:
Free411.com has competitors, of course, and the most daunting just appeared on the market from Google - Goog-411. Goog-411 is actually a bit more sophisticated than free411, offering product and service classifications and suggestions, which, of course, also generate more revenue. But for the most part the two services are comparable.
They should be since Google took a long look at investing in or acquiring free411 under a nondisclosure agreement between the two companies, only to abruptly break off discussions and start its own competing service. Is this beginning to sound familiar?… Read more