- 2 Nov 09, 09:03 GMT
I've been abroad on holiday for the last week - apologies for the lack of blog posts - but even 6,000 miles away I couldn't help noticing that it was quite a week for technology news. The UK government promised to press ahead with tough measures against illegal file-sharers, Nintendo admitted that the Wii had "stalled", Facebook was awarded $711m in damages against a spammer, and approval was given for web addresses in non-Latin scripts such as Arabic and Chinese. Oh, and there've been countless Twitter stories - from the new lists function to the soul-searching about the mob effect when Tweeters see something they don't like - but I know you're not interested in that...
What really caught my eye was the continuing forward march of Google. In just one week, the search giant appears to have struck fear into three industries - music, mobile phone makers and the sat-nav merchants - by offering consumers something new, often for nothing. Its OneBox music search service, which has seen it team up with MySpace's iLike, is being billed as a way of drawing consumers away from torrent sites to places where they can choose to pay for tracks. But it will also be seen as a threat to the fragile business models of companies like Spotify.
Google's Android mobile operating system, which had something of a slow start, is now appearing on a plethora of new smartphones, with Motorola's Droid the one currently attracting the most hype - and the inevitable "iPhone killer" tag. Apple can probably be relaxed about any single phone, but how long before there are more people using Android than Mac OS on a mobile?
And one of the services Google will now be pushing on phones like the Droid is free turn-by-turn navigation, which makes sat-nav devices - or the TomTom app on the iPhone - suddenly look very expensive. Investors certainly thought the threat was real - shares in both TomTom and Garmin lurched downhill when the news broke.
There is a danger for Google in this continuing land-grab. Commentators are already drawing parallells between the search firm now and Microsoft in 1995 - and asking when the competition authorities in Washington and Brussels are going to try to cut the company down to size.
That may be a little premature. Apart from in search-based advertising, Google does not have a dominant position in any of the markets it has entered, and plenty of its new ventures (I still don't really get Google Wave) have yet to make the impact that their enthusiastic creators have promised . What's more, there needs to be a plaintiff accusing the firm of anti-competitive behaviour with some pretty convincing evidence before the regulators can start flexing their muscles.
But, as we've seen with the furore over Google Books, there are plenty of people out there who don't swallow the idea that this is a company on a purely philanthropic mission to organise the world's information. And, if they start making enough noise, Google might need to ring up Microsoft and ask for the numbers of some smart competition lawyers.
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