Google I/O saw a number of new features go down in the book. Several of these were directly related to search. Jellybean is the latest version of Android (available next month), and the operating system comes with improved Knowledge Graph visualization technology. Out of all the features, however, the search features of Google Now might very well be the most significant change to user navigation.
Google Now is designed to serve users information that they require based around their preferences and location. It can deliver users specific weather reports for where they are ‘now’ before they start their day. It can also share traffic data, for instance, if a user’s ordinary route to work is going to take longer than usual, Google Now may suggest alternative routes. Sports scores and news are also prominently featured. None of these display capabilities require a single search to come up on your mobile device, they just appear as any alert or general message would.
Google defines Now as: “It tells you today’s weather before you start your day, how much traffic to expect before you leave for work, when the next train will arrive as you’re standing on the platform, or your favorite team’s score while they’re playing. And the best part? All of this happens automatically. Cards appear throughout the day at the moment you need them.”
Below is a video showing exactly how Google Now works.
The voice search features are also said to be more natural. Users can simply ask Google Now a question, like ‘where is the nearest gas station, Google Now will answer with a map, reviews, directions and more, although users may still type if they wish. Some will never be pleased with this sort of update, no matter how useful it may seem due to privacy concerns. Personal privacy issues often rise from many security experts who say to use Google Now with caution and that Google maybe more like a stalker than a search engine. Moreover, some don’t like Google or any search engine telling them what they’re supposed to find but many are drawn to the added utility.
On April 12, 2012, while writing for EliotsBlog.com I wrote: “ Google is clearly winning the war, at least in my opinion, not just in search, but in life itself. Google knows you (your searches), your friends (your connections), your likes (Google+), their likes (Search Plus Your World), what entertains you (YouTube) or what makes you laugh, where you are in the world at any given time (Gmail/Android) or where you’ve been – and I bet with a relatively low amount of computing power – Google even knows where you’re going before you get there. Maybe Google will predict your next action, your next thought based on a collaboration of thoughts past?”
Google as a company continues to grow and it could be focusing on various other markets. Last year, Google acquired Zagat to improve its local product and compete with Yelp, Trip Advisory, OpenTable and other dominant players in local search. Integrating restaurant data from Zagat to Google Now brings Google new profound ability to include valuable reviews and information on where to eat; an important component of local search. Zagat was also well known for featuring information in sizes that were easy for mobile users to swallow. According to AT&T Interactive, a study conducted for this year reveals that in both mobile and online searches, restaurants and automotive took the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in local search.
As far as ‘search’, it would be reasonable to speculate that Google Now threatens to make it less likely for users to actually use Google.com as a search engine. An unidentified internal source at Google has even suggested that Google might not wish to decrease people’s reliance on the search mechanism. After all, Google is supposed to be a search engine.
Google wants to draw users who regularly use certain apps towards their own software. In the process, they shouldn’t drive anyone away from their single largest product. Since Google Now won’t influence desktop and laptop users, there should be plenty of people left to stick around with the original Google service for the time being, but what should also be considered is that Google is widely used through mobile browsers on many other pieces of equipment. Systems that run Windows CE or Mobile aren’t able to run Android software, but they surf the mobile version of Google just as well as anything else. The same goes for iOS devices with a regular browser.