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Google invited journalists and industry analysts to its Mountain View, CA, campus yesterday to pledge greater transparency to the press and investors. It also announced four new search-related products and pleaded with journalists to pay more attention to its core mission – search – which it claims is more powerful than ever.

For years, Google executives have been steadfastly close-mouthed about the company’s future plans. But this policy has led to rampant guesswork and speculation in the press, often making potential partners uncomfortable about working with Google, said Elliot Schrage, the company’s vice president of global communications and public affairs.

“It’s confusing and inefficient if our partners keep getting conflicting messages about what our intentions are,” Schrage told journalists assembled at the company’s annual press day. “Obviously there are lots of proprietary and confidential things we’re doing that you are intrigued to write about, that we are not going to be particularly interested in telling you. But we’ve made a strategic decision that we need to be more transparent and to communicate somewhat more in order to reduce confusion.”

Among the things Google was willing to communicate at the event were four new products: the fourth iteration of Google Desktop, a news-and-information sidebar that now includes free-floating mini-applications, called Google Gadgets; Google Notebook, an electronic scratch pad that allows users to save text, images, and links from the Web pages they visit and access the notes later from any browser; Google Trends, which gives users a glimpse into Google’s historical database to see how the popularity of various search terms has varied over time; and Google Co-op, a social-search system that allows individuals or organizations to designate high-quality Web pages that will, in theory, improve the search results of anyone who chooses to “subscribe” to those recommendations.

All of the products were made available to users on Wednesday, except for Google Notebook, which will be launched next week. Google Gadgets will perhaps attract the most attention from Internet users; the mini-software programs, which can be placed on a computer desktop, can play music, show the latest news and weather, and display calendar appointments and the like.

But, as if to play down a flurry of announcements over the last year about other Google products, such as online mapping and calendar tools, executives speaking at the press event took pains to emphasize that Google is still a search company. They have “more people working on search than ever before in our company,” said CEO Eric Schmidt. “It is the focus of our business – and likely will be for the next 50 years.”

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