Here are some headlines from my conversation with Rob Torres, who emphasized that all options -- including the build versus buy equation -- are on the table. Torres said:
• Google monitors all competitors, regardless of their market share, but "we are not going to copycat. We will only do something if we can do it 10 times better than what's happening today."
• "Microsoft made a great acquisition in Farecast," but Google likely would take another route. "We don't have anything like that," Torres said, referring to Bing Travel, "and we don't intend to do something like that."
• Asked whether Google would acquire a company like Kayak or FareCompare, Torres said: "Would we acquire a Kayak just to be a Kayak? Probably not."
• "If anyone can come up with a game-changing opportunity" in travel, it would be Google, he said.
• Torres doesn't see Google introducing metasearch as an aforementioned game-changing opportunity. "The reality is that Kayak and others already are doing that very well."
• Kayak CEO Steve Hafner was being "highly speculative" and started from erroneous assumptions when he said Google doesn't care about flights and would bolster its stance in the travel business in the hotel sector. "We don't look at it as one versus another [air versus hotel]," but view the travel vertical "wholistically," Torres said. "I think our flight partners are very important. That's where they [most trip-planning queries] start."
• Asked why then Google did not further develop it's one-box flight search , launched in late 2005, Torres said "it has taken time to figure out the next step."
• Torres said Google's recent introductions of City Tours and Favorite Places, two travel applications leveraging Google Maps, were "nothing really big" in terms of the big picture and "not necessarily driving a travel product."
• A widely held view, Torres stated that the possibility of Google introducing a "transactional model" like an online travel agency are remote.
• Rather than attacking things piecemeal, Torres said Google looks to improve search across specific verticals and industries, including travel. He said Google has tremendous relatively untapped assets, including Google Maps, Google Base and YouTube.
So, now we know some of the things that Google likely will not do in travel.
Torres said that "time will tell" what steps Google would take.
Of the travel business, Torres said: "Certainly our interest hasn't waned over time."
Google travel is coming… could it be a hotel PPC system?