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I think, therefore I Google: search giant's quest to capture knowledge

Tony Wright (via SMH) | Nov. 29, 2011
If you want to find out something these days, you Google it. But being the planet's go-to search engine just isn't enough for the booming company, which is fast moving towards a radical new technological frontier, writes Tony Wright for the Good Weekend magazine.

"You can see, but you can't see through that wall. But neither can I," he chuckles. While I can study a screen, Raman's phone talks to him and informs him - whether it be in Hamburg or New York - where he is and what is around him and what it looks like. It can see through walls.

Karim Temsamani has no argument about the coming flood of smartphone use, either. Four years ago, Temsamani was a magazine executive with Fairfax, publisher of Good Weekend, in Sydney. Now, having served as general manager for Google Australia and New Zealand, he has moved to the Googleplex to become vice-president of Google Mobile, Google's fastest-growing division.

"In the next couple of years, by 2015, there will be more people accessing the internet through mobile devices than by any other method," he says, adding there are five billion mobile phones in the world, and the number of smartphones with access to the internet is growing exponentially.

Smartphones, he says, brought "an element of augmented humanity" to people's lives. They held pictures of family. Users on the go checked into social media sites to see what their friends were doing and called up friends and family to talk virtually face to face on video chat. Google Maps made sure they were never lost and smartphones were turned into digital wallets, enabling purchases without cash or card. As for retailers' fears that the internet would rob them of customers, "61 per cent of users who have researched a product on the internet end up calling a store or going into the store" and 44 per cent of them made a purchase, most of them in the store.

"I never go into a store without taking a picture of the product I am interested in and reviewing it on Google to see if I can find it cheaper somewhere else," says Temsamani.

The culture within which all these leaps of imagination are occurring is disarmingly blithe. Beyond the cafe's picture windows where the boy in the hammock works on his computer, a boisterous group of Googlers bound around a beach volleyball court, belting a ball and whooping. Around the corner, a lone lifeguard sits beneath a Google umbrella, overseeing the lap pool.

The gym is pumping. Scores of young bodies are on the running machines. They're either working up an appetite or trying to slough off the extra half-dozen kilograms that tend to creep up on Nooglers. It's not hard to imagine why a sudden weight gain might accompany the pay cheque that comes with recruitment to the Googleplex. No one is ever more than 50 steps from a restaurant, cafe or micro-kitchen. And no one pays for anything.


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