Google News, apple, apps, Google, iPad, iphone, Mobile phones, Search engines, smartphones, Technology — April 29, 2013 18:42 — 0 Comments
Google Now goes live for iOS
‘We want to bring our products to all of our users,’ says Android product management director Baris Gultekin
Accessed by swiping upwards from the bottom of the app’s homescreen, Google Now learns about its user through their activities and their history in various Google services.
It then serves up weather forecasts, traffic reports, boarding passes, sports scores and other information when they may be relevant. On iOS, it’s the sole new feature in version 3.0.0 of the Google Search app.
Available for Android devices since the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean software was released in 2012, Google Now’s iOS incarnation has been subject to speculation this year.
In mid-March, Engadget discovered a promotional video for the iOS version of Google Now on YouTube, although it was swiftly deleted. Later in March, Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt hinted that Apple approval issues were delaying the release of the new feature.
“It has been on Android for a while now, but we want to bring our products to all of our users, in more or less the same way,” says Google’s Android product management director Baris Gultekin, the co-creator of Google Now from its days as a “20% time” project within Google.
He was talking to The Guardian on the eve of the iOS release, although a last-minute hitch (yes, with Apple’s approval process) delayed the launch for a few days.
Google Now was unveiled at Google’s I/O developer conference in June 2012, and has been improved since then with the addition of more “cards” – the digital objects presenting information to its users. More than 25 are now available.
Gultekin (and Google) sees Google Now as a logical next step for Google’s search business, portraying it as part of the “evolution of search” from the original “10 blue links” search results page, through universal search returning more kinds of content; semantic search to provide answers as well as links; and natural-language voice search on mobile devices.
“Google Now comes after this: previously you had to issue a search to get these answers, and with Google Now you get what you need before you even ask,” said Gultekin.
“We talk about it as the assistant that gives you information throughout the day, without you having to ask. It fits broadly into our strategy: we want computers to do the hard work so users can focus on what matters in their life.”
Gultekin said that Google Now started with the thought that “your phone is really contextual, so how can we make it even smarter?”, pulling in data from the various Google services for a demo that “got people really excited” internally.
It’s early days, even though Google Now has been available for the best part of a year on Android.
“This is just the beginning,” said Gultekin. “Although we started this project as a 20% project, from another perspective Google has been working on this product for years: it’s built on top of all those Google services that people love.”
Like the Google Glass eyewear, Google Now has aroused suspicion from people who instinctively distrust any new product from Google that will help it gather even more information from users.
There’s clearly some sensitivity to this debate within Google. When I ask a not-quite privacy question about how much Gultekin’s team thinks about the eerie qualities of a service that aims to know what its users want before they do, he answered with what sounded like a pre-prepared response to the privacy concerns.
“We take privacy very seriously, and make it very clear what the user will get, and what kind of data we’ll be using, and lots of controls so they can turn things off that they don’t like,” he said.
“You can also opt out if you choose to. Users are finding it very valuable, but we also provide lots of insight into where this information is coming from, control and transparency.”
What about Google Glass, though? As the initial crop of adopters fan out across the world showing their smartspecs off at technology conferences (or testing their waterproof abilities), does Google’s move into augmented eyewear have lots of potential for Google Now?
“Providing really quick insights at a glance is very important,” said Gultekin. “That’s what Google Now does on your phone, with Android through widgets. And Google Glass? Google Now is integrated: it does work on Google Glass…”
No more details for now, though. But Gultekin did have a little more to say about the future for Google Now, which boils down to gauging feedback and usage from users, and iterating accordingly.
“We’d like to understand all of our users’ needs in all different situations: what situations they find themselves in the most, and where they need assistance the most,” he said.
“It’s the intersection of the two where we can add a lot of value, so that’s how we go about thinking about new sources of data through various partnerships. The future is all about can we add even more interesting and useful content in various situations that we don’t today?”
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