iOS already has its own personal assistant app in the form of Siri, but it seems Apple wants a more direct competitor to Google Now: 9to5Mac reports that a new service called Proactive is on the way.

With deep ties to Siri, Contacts, Calendar, Passbook and third-party apps, Proactive would reportedly surface timely and relevant information in the same way that Google Now does. This could be hugely useful on the Apple Watch as well as the iPhone and iPad.

While Google Now and Siri have several features in common, Apple’s app concentrates on controlling devices and running searches using voice input. Google Now focuses more on being an intelligent assistant, mining collected location, search and email data to automatically show alerts (like flight delays) when they’re needed.

And that appears to be what Proactive is targeting. 

“Proactive will automatically provide timely information based on the user’s data and device usage patterns, but will respect the user’s privacy preferences, according to sources familiar with Apple’s plans,” says 9to5Mac.

The roots of Proactive can be traced back to Apple’s 2013 acquisition of personal assistant app Cue, which enabled users to “know what’s next” based on calendar and email information. With the notification and search capabilities inside iOS growing, Proactive is a logical next step.

Battle Of The Digital Assistants

Cortana on Android.

Google Now has become the major component of stock Android—the unmodified version of Android that Google is increasingly pushing on phone makers—and is available on iOS devices and inside the Chrome browser too. With Microsoft’s Cortana assistant spreading out to Windows 10, iOS and Android, it’s time for Apple to make a move.

Siri has always been seen as Apple’s Cortana or Apple’s Google Now, but it lacks the smart, pre-emptive elements found in Microsoft and Google’s products. Proactive would plug that gap—9to5Mac says it will show estimated travel times to scheduled events in exactly the same way that Google Now does.

It’s another sign of the growing importance of these digital assistants and the ecosystems they tap into: Will we be choosing our next phones based on the digital assistant we get on best with? Or the one that knows most about us from our emails and searches?

9to5Mac says Proactive could even rearrange apps based on the time of day and usage patterns, and that third-party app integration will be an important element of the new service. If Proactive arrives with iOS 9, as is expected, we’ll be hearing about it at WWDC.

We’ll have to wait and see just how comprehensive the new app ends up being, and how well it competes with Google Now and Cortana. One thing we can predict with a good degree of certainty: It will only be available on Apple’s platforms.

Images courtesy of Apple and Microsoft