Reno - 7:16 am on Jan 12, 2012 (gmt 0)
I came to the conclusion some time ago that Google has a clearly defined longterm game plan and they are rolling it out one step at a time. I think it's fair to assume that the plan is closely held by perhaps a handful of people at the top, with those same people directing various teams of engineers to work on specific pieces of the puzzle that fit together as they are ready to go public. I doubt that Matt Cutts or any of the other spokespeople that we hear from are in this leadership group. Every now & then a tidbit is thrown out but it's like those blind guys feeling the elephant ~ none of them (or us) can see the full picture.
The one thing we can say for sure: Google will do what is best for Google. That's what public corporations do. They're not working for the good of the internet, or for the good of the webmaster community, or any one country ~ it's strictly an optimizing profit POV.
So nothing they do should surprise any of us. This evolution will continue on schedule and on target unless something really dramatic takes place, such as government intervention or a sudden loss of earnings. Google 2012 is significantly different from Google 2002, and I have a feeling that in 3 or 4 years, we will barely recognize this company. The only thing I'm sure about is the long-held Google tragedy that helped most of us earn an income is dead & gone, and it ain't coming back.