"What is Google doing?" is a question on the mind of every geek, and, surprise surprise, I have my own pet theory.
Google (a) sees MSN and Longhorn coming down the pole, and (b) already has Yahoo to reckon with, who (via Overture) are suing over of a central part of Google's revenue stream: adverts.
Why is Google hiring Java and web services guys? First, but not most importantly, to keep Microsoft on their toes. As I said, Google is the master of fire and motion.
Secondly, the meat of my theory: they want to offer search as a service, by dramatically expanding the strength, breadth and depth of the Google API. People will use this service; half of Google Labs is probably using it already, in beta form. Once this service becomes part of the infrastructure, which it will, then the API upgrades and improvements that everyone will expect from Google becomes yet more fire and motion.
That's why XML: Web Services. And why Java? Because that's probably what sits between the lean mean bit machines and the service interface: Java has security, scalability, maturity, portability, and it's not Microsoft - what else would they use?