Google is nearing the end of the big-time growth it can expect in Web ads. It needs new sources of revenue to keep its stock price high, and it has emphasized open source in the search for them.
Whether you're looking at cloud computing or mobile telephony, office applications or video, Linux and open source are at the core of it, because most of the code runs on Google's server farms.
Google, like the open source movement itself, has long emphasized the idea of giving things away and then making money from add-ons and services.
But many of the operations started with this intention have yet to turn a profit. Blogger, video, and news still lack compelling business models, and profits to match.
Wall Street is notoriously impatient. If earnings momentum isn't maintained the stock price will crash, and the era of Google will end.
So 2008 is a very important year, both for Google and for the open source movement generally.
How far can the idea of "give first, then take" really go, in the real world? Google has the bandwidth, the processing power and the storage to take this idea to the ends of the Earth, and to either prove it or disprove it, once and for all.
So even if you're not a fan of the company, it's good to root for it if you're a fan of open source.
You might call it a case of "I am Google (and so can you)."