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Say Cheese, Google!

Is a picture worth a thousand words? Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) betting that it is. The search giant is hoping its Picasa service will give its users one more reason to visit its Spartan site (and, of course, stick around longer).

According to Google's press announcement, Picasa's new service enhancements will allow photographers to edit, organize, and share photographs easily -- not to mention find those pesky files, which many of us know is not always an easy task. The service even includes a messaging service called Hello through which users can share pictures. And, of course, the service will allow users to easily send photos using Gmail as well as upload the images to blogs hosted on its Blogger site.

Digital photography has been a huge hit with consumers -- it's probably safe to call it a craze. Further, digital photography is probably one of the major drivers for more widespread broadband adoption, considering that plodding old dial-up connections choked on large attachments. The big picture behind all this success is, of course, the way technology can help us keep up to date with our loved ones who are far away.

And Google, of course, wants in on that kind of action. The move capitalizes on features that people desire right now. It's even more than folks simply wanting to bombard one another with digital memories. Other trends are at work; for example, the ability to easily edit and then upload photos to blogs capitalizes off the increasing popularity of the blog medium -- and theoretically could boost the popularity of its Blogger product.

And of course, in the long run investors know that Google faces many challenges as its deep-pocketed and popular rivals continue to make attempts to steal away search. Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) , for example, may have pulled a "me too" move with its recent desktop search beta launch, but it's also coming up with other interesting ways to lure users to its site.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) isn't taking Google's success sitting down, either, with its own eyeing of the search space, and it's hard to ignore that company's legacy of seeing a technology or feature that resonates with customers and emulating it. Our own Seth Jayson recently wondered whether Microsoft can kill Google.

It's quite obvious -- and necessary -- that Google can't rest on its own laurels as it continues to stretch the definition of "search" into the realms of organization. This is its bid to become a deeply entrenched part of computer users' experiences the second they boot up their computers. Given Google's super-premium price tag, though, investors expect no less.

What do you think of this new service? Will it bring shutterbugs of all kinds to Google? Talk about this issue and more on our Google discussion board.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.

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