It all starts with a rumour. Someone said something to someone else and that someone told another person and before you can say, “cheese-doodle”, a wrong-story rumour grows out of control as speculation spreads it far and wide. Each retelling of the story adds another dimension, based on the teller’s assumptions and perspective. An interesting phenomenon has played out in the search engine press over the past two days, as a non-story about something Google is not doing grew into the imminent death of Microsoft almost overnight.

Did you hear about Google cornering the market on low-cost PCs? It was a big story, broke by the tech-savvy folks over at the LATimes . According to the story, Google was about to introduce ultra low-cost PC’s and sell them through Walmart. In the 24-hour period it took for Google’s PR-chief David Krane to respond, speculation led to introduction of the long anticipated (but never confirmed) Goog/OS operating system.

As the story grew, the Google-branded computers would be manufactured in China and sold below $199 in Walmart stores throughout North America . Sporting a Googlized version of Linux, the mini-computers would run what was essentially a Google made operating system, employing Google’s vast array of free, membership based services, server-side software features. Free Gmail accounts and one gig of online storage space with every computer along with the host of other real and anticipated Google features. The Google/AOL deal would give Google primetime and feature movie content that could be sent via the proprietary Google-Video Viewer that would also come coded into the OS in every unit. Since all the software is free, along with the server-dependent operating system, that older company in Redmond would be made obsolete for the satisfied home user. The wonderful world of the Googleverse in a cube shaped box packaged and ready to ship to an eager market. Amazing but not real.

If the story were a bit more real than a rumour, it would put the fear of a grass-roots god into Microsoft. The mere thought of it should. Gates and Co. should be watching very closely as Google is more than capable of doing something similar, even if they have no plans of delivering their own computer units. Like Microsoft of old, they don’t need to make the computers; they just need to work with computer makers. Google, better than any other search engine understands the Internet itself is a meta-operating system used alongside the primary OS running individual computers.

Microsoft has grasped it, appointing Ray Ozzie as VP in charge of getting-it-back-together, in late 2005 however they might have grasped it too late. The biggest speculations about Google are the same story as the biggest speculations around Microsoft. They are two sides of the same ever-spinning coin.

Larry Page is speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. So are Yahoo’s Terry Semel and Microsoft’s Bill Gates. A number of announcements are expected to emerge, leading to speculation that a lot more column space will be filled thinking about what it’s all about.