Some of you have seen my Twitter tweet and some of you have seen a post on PR sites (thanks to all the PR people, whose pings about my future are heart warming), so this isn't a big shock. For everyone else...
This is my last post on Google Watch. I'm taking an undetermined time off from my career because, well, sometimes life throws you some curveballs. I'll leave it at that. In the meantime, please trust the excellent editorial leadership at eWEEK.com to keep Google Watch humming along. What a great group of people!
Since August 2007, Google Watch has become a great, fun forum for me to debate Google's strategy with some fantastic readers and critics.
I'm a cautiously happy Google user, realizing what Google learns about me from Gmail and searches. I realize the company has more potential than any Internet company to do considerable damage because of the data it sucks up. But I refuse to live in fear because of what might happen. Going through life hiding scared in the corner is not for me.
I've said before I think Google has a monopoly on search and I stand by that. The legal-minded look at that and scoff because Google hasn't been convicted of anything. Google hasn't even been called to court for formal deliberations on antitrust, unlike its great Microsoft foe.
That doesn't matter. The perception of Google holding too much power is out there.
Google has so much search market share. It doesn't matter that people have a choice. They make the choice because Google is the best, or has at least it has convinced people it is the best. Yahoo and Microsoft have not risen to the challenge. Is that Google's fault? No. We helped put Google in its powerful position by choosing it over what we deemed to be inferior services.
And now its overwhelming search-platform influence is extending to computer and mobile device platforms. Chrome is an unabashed Internet Explorer (and maybe someday Firefox) killer. Android is intended to be a killer operating system, first for mobile devices and then, who knows? Netbooks? TVs?
How successful this trinity of products is will determine whether or not Google succeeds in weaving its own Matrix. Will the public be assimilated?
Google is at the "Don't Be Evil" precipice, and could tip over the edge into being evil if it's not careful. I do believe there are enough people at the company that recognize the power Google has and the responsibility it has to use that power to provide great Web services without abusing civil liberties.
It's not unlike Batman or Superman trying to decide if they want to do good or evil. But it's what Google does going forward that will determine how we view the company. Google must be smarter than ever to navigate this gauntlet; it has already proved wise by backing out of its bid to partner with Yahoo once threatened with antitrust measures.
Even so, the vultures in Washington continue their circling.
The privacy rights groups smell Google's blood in the water and are desperately afraid of the company now that Barack Obama is in power. As much as Google may have an ally in Obama, Google must be careful here as well, lest it appear as a pack of preening sycophants.
If anything, Google's coziness with Obama will put a larger bull's eye on its back, like being the No. 1 college basketball team in the NCAA.
How will Google handle the pressure? Impossible to say, so we continue watching.