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Google tricks or treats?

When it comes to Google, sometimes it's hard to tell the tricks from the treats.

Its mantra is "Do No Evil," and many of its initiatives seem just too good to be true, like its current plan to stem the tide of AIDS and SARS. On the other hand, it's constantly being attacked for making a profit by doing end runs around pesky obstacles like privacy and copyright. Is Google the nice neighbor who hands out full-size candybars at Halloween, or is it more like the psycho who hides razor blades in apples? You be the judge.

1. Chrome

* Treat: Chrome, with its speedy V8 JVM, sandboxed tabs and integrated Gears capabilities has a lot going for it. For enterprises looking to SOA and Web apps, it's definitely sweet.
* Trick: Chrome is also like a Trojan horse, designed to seed Gears everywhere as fast as possible. And its Omnibox feature, with its keystroke reporting capabilities is just plain scary.

2. Book Search

* Treat: How can spreading knowledge be evil (Bible stories aside)? With Book Search, Google took it upon itself to scan every book ever published, making them instantly searchable and accessible to just about anyone.
* Trick: Oh, and with the integrated ad feature, it stands to make a nice profit from the venture, all without paying any copyright royalties. The recent settlement should spread the wealth a bit more evenly, however.

3. Yahoo rescue

* Treat: With Microsoft beating down its door and its stock price plummeting, Yahoo's days looked numbered. That is, until Google stepped in with an ad deal that aims to provide nearly $800 million a year for Yahoo's coffers and make it independently viable in the long run.
* Trick: The deal also lets Google increase its online advertising monopoly, while taking away Yahoo's incentive to be a strong competitor. Pretty tricky.

4. Energy independence

Treat: Wouldn't it be nice if the U.S. could have a clean environment and run its economy on its own, without the help of Middle Eastern or Venezuelan oil? Google thinks so. Its new $4.4 trillion plan promises to wean the U.S. off of foreign oil and "dirty" energy sources by 2030. Pretty sweet.
Trick: Google is one of the largest energy consumers in the country, and it's just covering its profit bases. Plus, it's forays into new sources of energy actually may help it monopolize future business models.

5. YouTube

Treat: Who wouldn't love a free, easy way to post and share videos online? Definitely sweet.
Trick: Besides Google's obvious profit-motive, once again, it's turned something free into something nasty by ignoring copyright issues. And its defense against the big Viacom lawsuit is pretty scary privacy-wise, at least so far.

6. Privacy

Treat: Speaking of privacy, Google recently improved its policy by cutting the amount of time it retains personally identifiable search information from 18 to 9 months, a move that made the EU and other privacy advocates happy.
Trick: A deeper look into the issue reveals that the change doesn't truly mask users' identities at all and was just cosmetic at best. Very tricky.

7. Novel, cool apps

Treat: Most reviewers agree, Google's new Google Earth for the iPhone and its true integration with the iPhone's touch screen interface, is pretty sweet.
Trick: As with all things Google, it packages the sweet with the sour, integrated online advertising.

And those are just the few examples that came to mind this bright Halloween morn. What do you think -- is Google a treat or a trick? Send us your thoughts!

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