Google’s cloud-based ChromeBook never really went anywhere, selling and performing poorly. But that hasn’t stopped Google from chasing its browser-as-OS future. With the recent introduction of Google Now to Chrome, Google looks set to install a Trojan Horse on Microsoft’s and Apple’s desktop home turf.

This might seem farfetched if you’re unfamiliar with Google Now. But if you’ve used it, you’ve experienced the almost magical foresight it has to anticipate the kinds of data you need before you ask for it. Here’s a demo:

As incredible as it is, Google Now is nowhere near reaching its full potential. Acknowledging its current limitations, Botnik CEO Michael Brill argues that “Sure it only does 30 things now …[b]ut let’s say it does 3,000 things and [Google adds] more interactivity to cards […N]ow they have a way to add value to the thousands of everyday decisions we make and in that process introduce sponsored content (i.e., ads) that can be monetized.”

The Quiet Spread

Monetization is the “why” of Google Now. Much more interesting, is the “how” of its proliferation.

Tilde co-founder and former Apple employee Tom Dale craves just one feature in Apple’s upcoming iOS 7: “sufficiently powerful hooks that Google could implement Google Now for iOS.”

Fat chance.

Given that Google Now is, as he continues, “the vector by which Google has figured out how to weaponize the stack of PhDs it has been accumulating for the past decade,” it’s unlikely that Apple is going to let Google Now onto its playground anytime soon. Except that it already has.

At least, that is, on the desktop. Spotted and described by Fran├žois Beaufort, Google has quietly introduced Google Now notifications into its latest Chrome desktop browser. This new Chrome Notification Center, while still only available in a pre-release Chromium build, is a clear indication that Google Now-style intelligence and notifications are coming to a Chrome browser near you, whether you’re running it on your Mac, Windows or Linux machine.

The World Of Google

I already spend most of my day interacting with the world through Chrome. In addition to vanilla websites, I also run Google Drive, Google Calendar, Gmail, Google Maps and other Google services. With Google Now, I’m not sure I’ll have much incentive to ever leave the realm of these services. 

This is Google’s great genius. Unlike Apple, which tries to create an optimal user experience by controlling every aspect of that experience, from hardware to software to web services, Google is happy to build for others’ platforms. Every user that interacts with Google, whether on a Blackberry or iPad or Windows desktop, is one step closer to embracing Chrome or Android or Google Talk or any number of other Google products. The more they use, the more advertising revenue they drive to Google.

In the battle between Android and iOS for mobile supremacy, Google is clearly winning, with IDC reporting that Android represented 75% of all smartphones shipped in Q3 2012, hooking users on the value of Google Now and other Google services. By adding Google Now to Chrome, with its roughly 20% of the desktop browser market, according to Net Applications, Google is planting a Trojan Horse on its rivals’ platforms, one which leads them to put the convenience of Google Now into their pockets, as well.

It’s a brilliant strategy, and it derives from Google’s exceptional ability to put Big Data to work, coupled with its willingness to be open to other platforms.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Matt Asay