Google Now May Find Its Way Home
Google is famous for its spare, lean home page that only gets dressed up with special Google Doodles. However, stray computer code found by a blog may indicate that Google Now, Android's virtual assistant loaded with personalized recommendations and information, may be joining the company logo and search box somewhere on the Web home page.
Apr 23, 2013 7:00 AM PT
A page of computer code being tested by Google may be pointing the way toward future integration of the Google Now mobile virtual assistant into the search company's famously minimalist home page.
The code was first found by Google Operating System, a blog that labels itself as "unofficial news and tips about Google." The page includes user options for setting home or work locations and an invitation to "get started with Google Now. Just the right information at just the right time."
A screenshot of a possible Russian language implementation of Google Now from a Chrome extension, which includes weather information and app listings, was also making the Internet rounds Monday.
However, the inclusion of the assistant on Google's home page "could be a trade-off since many Google users love the home page for its lack of clutter, perhaps living in the delusion that Google knows nothing about them," Al Hilwa, a research program director at IDC Seattle told TechNewsWorld.
The inclusion could mean Google's data on users, which is already being aggregated from multiple sources, "could be more integrated over time."
Including Google Now on the Google home page "would drive PC users to the homepage rather than have them just using the tool bar, and to provide mobile information with more information just by clicking on Google, or on the browser feature if the homepage is set to Google," said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.
Google did not respond to our request to comment for this story.
What Is Google Now?
Google Now is an extension of Google Search, and delivers information to users that it predicts they will want based on their search habits. It was first included in Android Jelly Bean 4.1 and was supported on Samsung's Galaxy Nexus.
Google Now displays cards with information taken from a user's Gmail account. Such information could include flight information, hotel and restaurant reservations, movies, concerts, news cards, and birthday reminders.
The application is seen as Google's answer to Siri, the personal assistant on Apple's iOS. It takes the place of iGoogle, which was the company's previous attempt at customizing a user home page.
IGoogle has submitted an iOS version of Google Now to Apple for review, company executive chairman Eric Schmidt said in March.
The application is also expected to be integrated into the desktop version of Google's Chrome browser.
Possible Impact of Google Now
Google Now works by recognizing actions a user performs repeatedly on a device, such as calendar appointments or search queries. It leverages Google's Knowledge Graph project, a database that contains information gathered from a variety of sources.
"The trend to leverage sensors and Big Data to provide helpful ongoing assistance is a valid pursuit that can have advantages to search engines," Hilwa said. "Anything on the Web or a mobile device that can engage users makes the vendor's services more strategically valuable, stickier and more monetizable."
Implementing Google Now in the Google home page "could make Google the preferred choice for instant local information, not just to search for information or to access other Google Services," McGregor told TechNewsWorld. It "could be used as an enhancement to Google+."
The Siren Song of Ad Revenue
Having Google Now on Google's home page would also "be a competitive advantage, especially in mobile," McGregor noted. "Any time you can get more eyes, you can get more ads."
It's possible that Google is making this move to counter Facebook, which has redesigned its user interface around the mobile screen. Earlier this month, the social network also launched Facebook Home, a group of apps that will enable instant chat and other features so as to increase the amount of time users spend on the network.
That move was interpreted as an attempt by Facebook to bolster marketing to mobile device owners.