Google Adds Cross-Platform Notifications Brick to Chromium Build

Google appears to have taken a step toward integrating Android’s Google Now notification feature into Chrome.

French programmer Francis Beaufort revealed Thursday that he spotted a new notification center in the latest Windows Chromium build that includes rich templated notifications.

This addition to the open source project for Chrome could become a hub for customizable Google Now cards that include information about user preferences and upcoming events, he speculated.

Google Now is an Android feature that pushes information to Android device users based on contextual data from the device — such as time of day, the user’s current location and location history — as well as information from other Google products and third-party products.

Such information could include traffic updates, sports scores, flight monitoring or appointment reminders.

A Bit About Google Now

Google Now includes voice search functionality similar to Apple’s Siri. It also lets Android users access detailed weather reports, trip reminders, email, events, news and other information through customizable cards.

The feature also looks for user behavior patterns to fine-tune the relevance of the information it offers.

Google Now was formally introduced in the Jelly Bean version of the Android OS.

The Possible Impact of Rich Templated Notifications

Beaufort’s discovery has sparked speculation that Google’s Chromium browser will include Google Now for desktops.

That possibility first emerged in December, when the Chromium website featured a blog post on creating a skeleton for Google Now for Chrome implementation.

“I would assume that this would happen later rather than sooner,” Wayne Kernochan, president of Infostructure Associates told TechNewsWorld. “After all, Android has this now as an advanced feature, and open source typically happens later in the product lifecycle.”

Google might offer Google Now in the latest Chromium version to “build on its differentiation from Apple for developers,” Kernochan guessed. “Google now, with its emphasis on effective search rather than Siri’s ‘humanness’ is a case in point.”

The inclusion of Google Now on desktops running Google Chrome and on Chromebooks is “an incremental step in making wider arrays of apps with notification of a wider range of information at one go available to Google users,” Kernochan said. “This was previously more of a manual task for app developers, which meant that most didn’t approximate this kind of notification, as far as I know.”

Such a development could “presumably make Chromebooks richer and the overall platform more sticky,” said Al Hilwa, a research program director at IDC.

Possible Issues for Google

Google has typically tried to ensure that Chrome is a relatively pure HTML5 platform.

“Whether they’d add more richness to it and define a platform on top of other platforms is an interesting question,” Hilwa told TechNewsWorld.

The search giant so far has positioned Chromebooks as pure Web engines.

“Adding richness beyond the standard will, over time, increase the surface area for security issues and such,” Hilwa said.

Playing Catch-up

The incorporation of Google Now into the Chrome browser will see Google’s and Apple’s operating systems mirror each other even more closely.

“Certainly they appear to be converging over the last year or so,” Kernochan said. “Note, however, that Apple appears to be coming out with a major change in the industry less often, which allows Google to do this. Certainly this type of mirroring is more in Google’s DNA than Apple’s.”

Both Apple’s iOS and Mac OS X operating systems already have push-notification systems, and iOS puts all its notifications into its Notification Center. The Notification Center became available to Mac users as part of OS X Mountain Lion last year. That brings up the question of whether Google is perhaps playing catch-up.

“Google may have done it later, but Google is also different in the types of rich information it emphasizes,” Kernochan pointed out. “On the other hand, differentiation may matter less in the future if developers view both sides as more or less equivalent, which would probably be a good thing for Google.”

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