Google Now’s Open API Plans Could Spell Trouble for Siri And Cortana


Google personal digital assistant is about to get a whole lot more powerful. Google Now—which recommends websites, keeps track of reminders and appointments and acts as every Android-user’s personal digital butler—will soon provide developers with an open API, product director Aparna Chennapragada told an audience at SXSW on Saturday.


Just about every kind of app would be able to communicate with Google Now to provide even more tailored notifications and recommendations to users. As a result, Google might leave competitors from Apple and Microsoft choking on its digital dust.

User Activity To Guide Recommendations

Chennapragada explained that Google Now’s predictive abilities have gotten much smarter since the service first launched in 2012. At first, the Google Now team simply guessed what notifications and apps would be most useful. But after extensively polling users and their activity, the team has refined Now’s recommendations.

When Google offers the open API, however, there will be even more apps and notifications vying for Google Now’s affections. It’ll determine each user’s most pertinent notifications based on their app usage patterns.


Examples of how Google Now already works with over 30 third-party apps.

That sounds smart enough, though how it’ll work in practice remains to be seen. I still swipe away notifications on my Android Wear watch that I’ve told Google Now I don’t need. I’d put my Google Now success rate somewhere between 65 and 75 percent on a daily basis. Bringing even more competing apps to the party may make it even more difficult for users to cut through the noise to find their most important signals.

Siri And Cortana Then—But Google Now

Still, Chennapragada says that Google will be working on rolling out the open API between the next six to twelve months. That’s plenty of time for the team to work out the kinks as they continue to experiment with the 30-plus third-party apps that already communicate with Google Now.


Microsoft’s Cortana in action.

If there’s one area in which Google excels, it’s handling lots of data and giving users the best results. As Microsoft pursues plans to launch Cortana on other platforms, one of its biggest hurdles will be playing catch-up to Google Now’s huge head start. Forget Microsoft providing developers with an open API—Cortana actually needs to end up on people’s devices before the company can start providing the same depth of functionality.

Siri, meanwhile, isn’t leaving Apple’s iOS devices at all. Apple hasn’t done much to open Siri up to other apps, either. With Google Now also available on iOS, the forthcoming open API could give the service a huge edge on Apple’s platform, to say nothing of the millions of happy Android users getting more out of Google Now than ever before.

Images courtesy of Google; Cortana image courtesy of Microsoft

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