I had the pleasure of taking out two product managers from Google out to dinner the other night. Why is that so special? Well, maybe because the week before I was with their "boss" Sergei, but was actually more interested to talk to these two guys. Both have been at Google for five years, which for my ADD work style, is many lifetimes.
I enjoyed meeting them more than Sergei because they are not the top guy -- but without them (and several dozen others at their level) Google would crawl to a halt. These guys are what makes Google great.
And it is often the "lower" down people on the corporate totem pole that can truly give the pulse of what is happening at a company like Google, that has grown in ten years to a 19,000 person behemoth.
Bottom line, from what I heard Google is becoming a normal company. Not a bad place to work, far from it. But normal. Internal politics, lack of decision making at times, fear of the unknown. "Us" v. "them" when speaking of different groups in the company. And then the acquisitions, which will take years to integrate, if at all (think YouTube, DoubleClick).
Spending some time with these guys reminded how "easy" it is to create a Google. You just need a great core concept that can scale to hundreds of millions of users, incredibly smart team around the founders, and a business model. Shake that all up, throw in healthy amount of luck, and walla, you have your self a market dominating company. Sustainable? Who knows. MSFT stock has not performed well recently, and obviously their growth has slowed. Will that happen to Google? Based on my dinner, probably.