Just as I wrote about Google’s AppEngine last year, Google’s applications – whether Gmail, Wave, Maps, or the recently announced Buzz – are about reducing costs and streamlining their business.
In the long run – it’s significantly cheaper for Google to build the tools its employees use (especially if the same employees build them) than it is to negotiate licensing or usage feeds to someone else.
This is why the significant majority of Google’s applications are free to us non-Google employees – the cost of opening up their apps to the outside world is so close to zero, they treat it as zero. Google’s development costs were paid by their operating budget.
I feel the same way about all the products I build, Cullect, Kernest, etc – I use them and I’m building the same technology infrastructure whether 1 person uses it or a thousand.
The incremental cost of sharing it with the world at that point is, well, zero.