When Google Inc. quietly bought a software shop called Android Inc. a year ago, neither the suitor nor the quarry revealed much about the terms of their attraction.

Google never said how Android, a 22-month-old start-up that described itself solely as a maker of software for mobile phones, would fit into its grand strategy.

Yet Android was typical of the acquisitions made by Google: a modest firm with niche expertise to help the Internet giant build on its core businesses rather than strike into wholly new frontiers.

Most of Google's purchases have been so small as to barely attract notice, and the company has done little to highlight them. But taken as a whole, the company's record of acquisitions offers a few signposts toward its future.

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