There's an interesting interview with Marissa Mayer, Google's VP, where she discusses how Google sometimes makes moves for ulterior motives - her example being 1-800-GOOG-411. Engineers were really looking for data to analyze in working on speech recognition modeling:
"The speech recognition experts that we have say: If you want us to build a really robust speech model, we need a lot of phonemes, which is a syllable as spoken by a particular voice with a particular intonation. So we need a lot of people talking, saying things so that we can ultimately train off of that. ... So 1-800-GOOG-411 is about that: Getting a bunch of different speech samples so that when you call up or we're trying to get the voice out of video, we can do it with high accuracy."
It's an interesting point and makes you think of Google products and Google decisions in a different light.
Seperately, Google has started integrating social features into more of their tools, and are beginning to develop the Google profile, which will follow you across their products. Right now you can see it in Google Shared Stuff, in Google Maps, in Google Reader, and more. In Google Reader, you can now see your gmail and chat contacts' shared feeds in a separate dashboard. Soon you will hopefully begin to receive information flow about more actions directly within the same contact dashboard, just like the newsfeed in facebook (these same contacts are updating shared documents, adding photos to Picasa, building maps, etc).
View and subscribe to my shared items feed here (visible on the right of this page) - and let me know if you use Google Reader.