Google Now Talks Its Way Onto iPhones

Yesterday – Google’s predictive search and voice recognition tool has arrived as an app on Apple’s iOS platform.

Having debuted at last year’s Google I/O conference, the Now-enabled Google Search 3.0 for iOS brings the same robust search features and visual style, called cards, to iPhones and iPads. Google Now’s product manager, Tamar Yehoshua, said that Google Now will compete well against Apple’s personal assistant Siri because of its superior accuracy.

“We think we’ve built a great experience,” she said during a conversation at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View last week. “We’re giving you an answer before you’ve even asked,” she explained. Google is “able to predict knowledge that you want before you know you want it.”

Google Now does that by taking advantage of several different technological areas. It leverages the text-to-speech output, the Knowledge Graph, and the technology stack to provide its voice recognition and predictive search combo.

Unlike Google Now on Android, which you can start using as long as your device is running Android 4.1 or later, the Google Now app on Apple’s iOS will require you to log in to your Google account first. But the defining features of Google Now, the voice recognition and the predictive search, remain intact.

The predictive search in Google Now will use your calendar, for example, to determine what information it should show you. That info can change depending on where you’re going, so it might show you traffic on your route home, or tourist sites near your hotel.

Google Now’s Voice Recognition has made some significant improvements. People got used to using keywords to search because they had to, but it’s not the best way to search. Google Voice has now implemented just the beginning phases of context and conversation, such as following a question like “How tall is Barack Obama?” with “And how tall is his wife?”

And an even more complex scenario as a future goal for Google Now would be to follow “What happened in the Red Sox game?” with “Who’s pitching? When are they playing tomorrow?” and the tricky integration of other digital services that could conclude with “Record the game for me.”

Google executives were quiet about possible plans to port Google Now to other platforms, such as Chrome. But it’s apparent that the service is big deal for Google, as evidenced by the attention that co-founder and CEO Larry Page paid Google Now during last week’s quarterly earnings call.

The goal of Google Now, he said, “is to get you the right information, at just the right time.” He noted the key features of the service, including that it provides people with their boarding passes and delivery updates as well as traffic conditions, local sports scores, and upcoming weather conditions without prompting.

“Looking for the nearest pharmacy? Just ask Google for directions, and we’ll deliver them instantly,” Page said. “No typing needed. And you can now ask conversational questions like ‘Do I need a jacket this weekend?'”

While it’s clear that Google Now is growing in its importance to Google Corporate, especially as a strong customer-facing tool for its Knowledge Graph, it’s less obvious how many people with iPhones will abandon Siri and its automatic start features in order to jump into Google’s competing app.

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