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Google plans to remain an aggressive corporate acquirer in 2011, good news for startup companies (and their venture backers) who may be looking to cash out. Google acquired 48 companies last year — including four with operations in Seattle. And David Lawee, Google’s vice president of corporate development, tells The Wall Street Journal that the search giant will continue to be “aggressive” when it comes to finding cutting-edge startups.

That contrasts a bit with Microsoft, which continues to make bets on small teams but hasn’t met its rival’s extraordinary pace. Last fall, Microsoft’s Marc Brown said that the company acquired 15 small startups, most of which were unannounced deals.

It is not secret that big technology acquisitions don’t always work out as planned. But — as Alley Insider notes — Google has proven quite adept at gobbling up big companies and turning them into meaningful products. (YouTube, Android, DoubleClick).

Google now employs 800 people in the Seattle area, split between two major development offices in Fremont and Kirkland. It recently added more space in Fremont, taking a chunk of space previously occupied by Getty Images.

So, how will the search giant fill that space? In addition to recruiting top-notch developers, it could go after emerging startup companies in the Seattle area.

Who? I’ve speculated in the past, so I’ll do so again.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Seattle-based AdReady — located down the street from Google’s Fremont operation — as a potential candidate. Google also could go after some of the emerging technology infrastructure companies in Seattle, including SkyTap which just happened to be started by Google Seattle executive Brian Bershad.

John Cook is co-founder of GeekWire, a technology news site based in Seattle.

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