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Siri, meet your new competitor, Google Now

Queena Kim Apr 30, 2013
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You’ve heard of Siri? It’s Apple’s personal assistant. You can talk to it and it’ll help you find information online, show you the weather and answer random questions.

Well, Google is taking on Siri on its home turf. The search giant released its own personal assistant — called Google Now — on the iPhone this week, after a successful run on Android phones.

I couldn’t resist, I had to ask Siri what she thought about it.

Her answer?

“I don’t really have anything to say about Google Now or ever.”

Well Siri, you might want to reconsider that.

Google Now takes all the data we feed it — like what we search for, what we buy, where we are — and learns our habits, giving us information before we ask for it. I use an iPhone and downloaded Google Now yesterday but so far, it’s not very useful — just information about the weather and nearby bus stops.

“If you just started using “Google Now” it hasn’t learned that much about your habits yet,” said Liz Gannes, a senior editor at the tech blog All Things D.

She’s got an Android, which has had Google’s personal assistant app for almost a year now, and so Google Now knows a lot about her. It tells her how long her commute will be, when she has a restaurant reservation.

Her favorite example: “I was taking a United Flight so my boarding pass was emailed to my GMail account. So the morning of the flight, it pops up in Google Now with your boarding pass right there,” she said.

Tony Costa, an analyst at Forrester, says anticipatory computing is the next frontier in mobile search. Right now, search is mostly about asking for information, but the trend is to give you information before you ask for it.

It’s that aspect of these devices becoming active participants with their users rather than just passive order-takers,” Costa said.

In this respect, Google Now has a big head start over Siri, said Tammy Madsen is professor at Santa Clara University’s School of Business. 

There’s a lot to catch up on if we think about the search capabilities behind a “Google Now”-type feature,” Madset said.

She says whereas Apple’s focus is hardware, Google’s spent more than a decade collecting our data or getting to know us better.

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