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Google Hones Cutting Edge

Updated from 8:49 a.m. EDT

For most of its short life, Google (GOOG - Get Report) has been blessed with positive press. But as it grows more successful and more influential over the Internet's development, the tone has turned darker.

In recent months, news publications and blogs have chided it for everything from harming French literature to coming up short on customer service to lacking a coherent, overarching strategy.

So, in an effort to be a little better understood -- or at least a little less misunderstood -- Google marshaled these increasingly critical reporters, bloggers and industry analysts and explained what the search company (er, sorry -- the organizer of the world's information) is all about. Google CEO Eric Schmidt and co-founder Sergei Brin were a little more forthcoming than usual, even unveiling new initiatives that dazzled the crowd.

Like everything else it does, Google labored hard to handle the presentation differently. It hewed to a Star Wars theme, a joke that felt stretched when someone pulled out a light saber and that definitely grew absurd around the third or fourth Yoda quote. There were bizarre attempts at personal touches, such as mentioning the 2,300 pounds of chicken and the 112 pounds of wheatgrass its employees consume each month, or the executives who fret about which socks to wear.

But we often forgive Google its occasional very annoying quirks because we love the technology it produces. And if you're an investor, you love the massive revenue and profit that the technology in turn produces. Toward that end, Google gave peeks at a few new technologies that will help keep its cutting edge sharp for a while.

In addition to outlining how its AdWords and AdSense technologies are evolving to draw ever richer revenue streams from the world's largest advertisers to the least prolific blogger, Google unveiled a personalized homepage for users that looks much like the My Yahoo! page offered by its archrival.
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