Google may have gotten tougher on revenue-challenged projects and scaled back perks somewhat (people, the free meals are for employees who are working late, not takeout for folks headed home), but the company doesn't lack for ambition. Looking at the breadth of its accomplishments last year, you can't help but imagine that lurking beneath the Googleplex is a secret lab exploding with ideas:
Android: After months of G-phone hype, Google unveils Android, the first free, open-source operating system for mobile phones. With Samsung and Motorola handsets on the way, Android users could well out-number iPhoners. Like the iPhone, Android has an app store and new programs are being added every week. One killer app: a map that reorients as you move. Another, Locale, uses the phone's GPS and adjusts the phone's outgoing messages to where you are, at work or home.
Chrome: Google has the confidence/arrogance to try to build a better Web browser. Cloud-friendly Chrome debuts with a 38-page manual/comic book explaining its development and features. With only a tiny percentage of the market, it doesn't threaten Firefox or Microsoft Explorer -- yet.
Flu Trends: Google releases a service that tracks flu outbreaks. By analyzing search data, it recognizes early indicators of an outbreak in a community, even before the CDC has issued an official alert.