Funny, I don't remember Google giving anything away for free that wasn't designed to kill someone else in a given market either. I can think of plenty of things Microsoft gives away for free, every single one of which, of course was designed to help them sell something else. It's a corporation. Making money is what it is supposed to do.
Google gives away free e-mail? G-talk? Google earth? Microsoft gives away plenty too, things you most likely simply take for granted, or will say are "irrelevant" because you don't happen to like their offerings. Internet explorer, MSN, Microsoft has a maps service too I think...hell, even the .net framework! There are enough applications that MS gives away for free that it could take me all day just to remember them.
Do I like them? No, in fact, I tend to use alternatives. That doesn't mean I don't recognize their value. Microsoft might provide a cheap imitation of some products, (Silverlight to adobe's flash,) but it's enough to drive costs down for the competitor. If Microsoft had never developed Internet explorer, what do you think we'd be paying for every copy of Netscape now? Because we would be, and it would probably be the only browser out there. There are innumerable other examples of how this horrible little company has inadvertently helped the customer more than it has harmed us.
Microsoft has a (fading) Operating system monopoly. It also has a (fading) Office Package monopoly. That's about it. In almost every other market it plays in there are either valid contender with real backing, or, it is the upstart punk struggling against the entrenched monopoly.
Like it or not, in a great many areas, Microsoft's competition has lowered the price of software (and even hardware, in the keyboard/mouse or console gaming field, for example,) for everyone.
I'm no Microsoft fanboy, (for the record, I like my XP as a desktop OS due to laziness and familiarity, and I don't mind Active Directoy, but I loves me my linux for everything else, and am very much getting on the Solaris bandwagon,) but I do recognize that despite Google's flowery marketing, and the tripe they feed to the gullible...
...they too are a corporation. A public one, as I recall, just like Microsoft. With a legal obligation to their shareholders to maximize profits. Google's business model is different than Microsoft's. They don't (currently) rely on licensing software outright. Instead, they rely on keeping you, and more importantly all your lovely data locked into their private network, so they can scan it, and manipulate it, and churn out advertising. That's a great short term plan, because they can give away plenty of free stuff and earn good will.
Once they effectively own the internet, all the software and data on it, they can, and in fact will be legally obligated to monetize every last iota of that, by charging as much as they feel they can get away with.
Google isn't a benevolent fluffy bunny and rainbow factory. It is a soul-sucking corporation just like the rest of them.
I will acknowledge however, it is run by far more likeable, socially capable, and public-relations aware geeks than almost any other IT company out there. They smile, and laugh, mix and mingle, and make everyone love them. It is so very, very easy to forget why they exist, and what their purpose in life is. (To pull every last cent out of you they possibly can.)
Which is why they are so ****ing terrifying.
To those who think this is only about Google becoming an advertising Monopolist: it's not. In order for Google to reach that status that it so desires, it first needs to lock you in to it's software for everything you do on the computer. It has a long way to go, and many competitors to kill before then, but the ultimate goal is now clear: it wants you to use Google <product name> Beta for everything you do in life, from business to personal. It wants you to store your information in it's cloud, and it wants to index everything you view, store, search, send, receive, watch and vote on. It wants to know your likes, your dislikes who you know, what you think of them, everything it can.
The ultimate goal of Google is to have a complete, accurate psychological profile of every single person on earth with enough money to use the internet, so that it can completely and utterly dominate advertising in a way that no other medium ever approached.
And while it's at it, once you and I, and everyone else is dependant upon it's services for everything, it will start charging for them, small amounts at first, but ever more with time, because it has no competition, and that share price has to go up.
You can choose not to believe this, but time will tell the tale, and 20 years from now, we shall see what we shall see...
Penguin, becuase it's off to buildinng more Apache VMs for me!