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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 November 2005, 11:20 GMT
Google extends searching offline
Google Space at Heathrow airport
Travellers are spending an average of 30 minutes at Google Space
Google may already be dominant on the web but now it is stretching its wings to the physical world as well.

Google Space, at Terminal One of London's Heathrow airport, will allow people to log onto the net and check e-mail while they wait for flights.

For Google, the space will be used to test its myriad product launches on the public.

"We see it as a huge focus group," said Lorraine Twohill, Google's European director of marketing.

"For many of our users, we have always been something in their computers and they have never actually met us," she said.

Core DNA

GOOGLE PRODUCTS AT A GLANCE
Google Earth - allows users to search the planet, via maps and satellite images
Google Toolbar - a search box in users browsers allows them to search from any web page
Google Mail - offers over 2000MB of free storage and allows users to search for any previous e-mail
Google Local - information about local businesses, restaurants, hotels and driving directions
Picasa - picture management service where users can also edit, crop and mail their stored photos to friends
Google Mobile - an SMS service which allows users to ask questions such as how to get from one place to another and get instant answers

With trained Google staff on hand at the booth, it will be a chance to road-test some of its new product launches and get invaluable feedback.

Depending on the success of the Heathrow "pod", Google could become a recognised physical presence in airports, stations and even high streets around the world, said Ms Twohill.

Google has been a phenomenal year of launches, even by the standards of a cutting-edge tech firm.

Desktop search, Google Earth, Google Mail, Google Local, Google Toolbar, picture management store Picasa and Google Mobile have all come online in recent months, as Google continues to expand its search catalogue to all aspects of daily life.

Also out of the labs this month is Google's personalised search, which, alongside a bespoke homepage which can be built to your own personal needs, also offers more personalised searching, remembering what you have previously looked for and selecting things it thinks you want to see.

While it may seem as if Google has its fingers in many pies at the moment, all its products are interlinked, said Ms Twohill.

"It all comes back to our core DNA of search," she said.

As well as moving into a physical space, Google is also likely to make a play for our pockets too, with Ms Twohill earmarking mobile - alongside personalisation - as important areas for the firm in the future.

Google's ever-expanding product portfolio has led some commentators to question whether it is making a bid to be the next Microsoft.

According to Ms Twohill, its ambitions are more modest.

"We are still a tenth the size of Microsoft and are not ready to be compared to them," she said.

It is true though that Microsoft is increasingly vying for a share of the search market and this can only be a good thing, she thinks.

"A space like search needs two or three key players. While search is not Microsoft's heritage, if it sets its mind to something it will do a good job and grow the space for everyone," she said.




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