Equating Google with Xerox is a bizarre comparison, but when I ask “Is Google the new Xerox?” I’m referring specifically to Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). PARC is the place where a lot of the innovations we use today, such as the laser printer, graphical user interface, the mouse, ethernet, and a whole slew of other things, were invented.
Google seems to have the same bent for doing research in the areas of organizing information such as maps, your desktop computer, the internet, photos, and your email inbox. It’s pretty obvious that some fantastic minds are at work inside Google and we’ve seen only a tiny piece of their contribution to modern technological innovation.
Microsoft also has a research branch, but a lot of the ideas I’ve found there, as with Xerox PARC, remain theoretical for quite some time. Google appears to be a company translates innovation into product; something that PARC never did and the reason it was eventually closed.
I have to chuckle at the results of a machine translation evaluation where a number of different computer algorithms for translating text from one language to another were compared. Of the 20 tools evaluated, 75% are academic or government agencies. Of the remaining five companies: IBM, Linear B, Sakhr, Systran, and Google, three make language translation software as their core business. Only IBM and Google are doing this as a side business.
And, not coincidentally, Google’s translations were the best.