Pushed on whether the company can really justify its indulgence, Debbie is keen to point out that although Google is generous with its employees, it keeps a tight reign on things like marketing budgets. "We don't take ads out in SuperBowl -- we're not that kind of company," she says. But even so, if the company goes public next year, as it has been rumoured, surely the corporate culture will have to change when there are shareholders to consider? Debbie claims that the founders are conscious of the way the business has changed as it's grown and accepted after it grew beyond three or four people that things would never be the same as the old days.
Hiring ex-Novell boss Eric Schmidt to become Google chief executive is a clear sign that the founders Page and Brin are focused on expanding the business from straight search. The recently launched news site, the Froogle comparative e-commerce search facility, and an expanding focus on the corporate search market show that Google isn't content to sit back and enjoy the $600 to $800m analysts estimate the company has netted from advertising and license fees this year. Not that the market is going to let the company relax.
Google News, still in Beta 2 but expected to be a finished product in the next six months, has irked previous customers of its search facility, such as Yahoo,! which increasingly see Google as a competitor. But Microsoft could be the biggest threat, and has publicly voiced intentions to move into the search market with the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn. By using its dominance of the desktop, Microsoft plans to blur the line between local and internet search giving it a clear advantage over Google. The Redmond firm has already made tentative moves in this direction with its MSNBOT search product.
But despite threats on the horizon Google is continuing to expand with plans to move its entire staff into a nearby facility once occupied by Silicon Graphics -- an old-school company that has fared less well than Google recently. Whether Google goes the same way as SGI will become clearer after its IPO, which some commentators claim could reignite the present tech economy in the same way that Netscape did back in August 1995. But given the boom and bust fate of Netscape, Google's founders are probably hoping the parallels stop there.