Google founder ponders Irish R&D unit

Google Ireland launched

At an event that resembled an American-style 'pep rally' - and included several upbeat speeches and exuberant cheers from Google staff - founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, along with Tanaiste Mary Harney, officially opened Google Ireland on Barrow Street in Dublin yesterday.

The facility, which is based in an unfinished building, has been in operation for over a year and already employs some 150 workers, including sales, support, IT, engineering and finance staff. Google Ireland will serve as the firm's EMEA operations headquarters. The final headcount at the site could swell to beyond 200 as Google's business grows, executives said, repeating several times that the company is still recruiting.

In a brief presentation, which included praise for the new Google Ireland staff, Brin said that after visiting Dublin's high-profile research facility, Media Lab Europe, Google may also look to establish an "advanced research and development" unit in Ireland. Later, at a press briefing with other Google executives, Adam Freed, Google's director of international sales and operations, said that the comment marked the first public expression of such a notion by Google's co-founder.

Still, a Google Ireland R&D unit would be welcomed by the IDA and the Irish government, who, under Tanaiste and former Minister for Enterprise Mary Harney, worked hard to bring Google to Dublin.

"What Google is seeking to do is what Ireland is seeking to do," said the Tanaiste and new Minister for Health, referring to the creation of a creative environment where new ideas can flourish. That picture is one that Google executives said describes the Google workplace and that the Tanaiste claimed was the future for the Irish economy. "Our interests are very much married together," Harney added.

Innovation and creativity

With its much-publicised IPO - which helped the company raise almost $1.35bn in cash - now behind it, Google is being scrutinised by industry watchers who are keen to see the firm's next innovation. Already Google has branched out into areas like targeted internet advertising, matchmaking, local searches, e-tail product searches and email, most of which play on the core search technology that Brin and Page developed as graduate students at Stanford University.

Gmail, the firm's stab at web-based email, has already drawn mixed reaction from web users and lawmakers, who have expressed delight at the prospect of a 1GB mailbox but question Google's right to search personal mails in order to insert relevant ads. Yesterday more rumours about G-mail emerged, with media reports claiming that the product, when launched, may include a Windows system tray feature called "Gmail Notifier" to let users know they have new mail without having to log on.

Garnering even more furious speculation in recent weeks has been the possibility of a new Google web browser, which could challenge Microsoft's dominance. When asked about the possibility of a browser, Freed declined to give specific answers, simply advising those interested to watch developments at Google Labs. Other reports yesterday, including one from News.com which quotes Google board member John Doerr, said the search giant would not enter the web browser market.

Today, Brin and Page are due at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany to launch a new search technology that allows individuals to search for relevant books, a move that should help publishers associated with the service sell more books. "Google Print" is said to rival internet retailer Amazon.com's A9.com offering, a similar free service partly based on Google technology.

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