Google Now likely coming to Macs via Chrome

Google Now iOS teaser 001

Isn’t it interesting how Google circumvents Apple and builds its own platform on top of iOS? Not only are the Internet giant’s popular services like Maps, Gmail, YouTube and Search available as native iOS apps, they’re among most downloaded App Store items.

Despite early complaints of excessive battery drain (and Google’s mild response), the potentially disruptive Google Now feature is now available on iOS devices through Google’s standalone Search iOS app. And now, Google Now could be heading to Macs…

According to a Google+ post by Chromium evangelist François Beaufort, an issue log points to the Chrome notification center enhancements for OS X. The code string is depicted below and is listed as “[Mac][MC] Implement notification updates and relayouts.”

François nots Mac users “will be happy to know that rich notifications are being implemented on Mac.”

The feature is still “under heavy development,” but nevertheless strongly suggests that Google Now is likely to surface on Mac and Windows desktops via an upcoming update to the Chrome browser. These rich desktop notifications could also lend themselves perfectly to instant messages in Google’s rumored new Babel chat platform.

At any rate, we’d be willing to bet that a major new stable Chrome release with built-in Google Now will be released during Google I/O 2013, which runs May 15-17 at San Francisco’s Moscone West.

Google Chrome (rich Mac notifications)
Old Chrome notification (left) and new rich notification (right).

Google has previously updated the Chromium OS X build with support for the Chrome OS notifications.

Although rich notifications are yet to land on Chrome’s Canary OS X build (and then trickle down to Chrome Beta before being included in the stable build), the feature is an important prerequisite for Google Now, which relies on information cards popping up when needed.

This development is newsworthy on many levels.

Google appears to have found ways to build its own mini-platform within Apple’s iOS platform. Its native apps like YouTube and Maps can open links in the Chrome iOS browser rather than Safari.

Just yesterday, for example, the Gmail app added the ability for users to choose to use Google’s iOS apps over their stock counterparts from Apple.

gmail choices

Other third-party apps are also increasingly supporting Chrome web links, including TapBots’ excellent Twitter iOS client, Tweetbot.

And earlier today, the search firm published a blog post as a reminder for iOS developers to add their app to Chrome’s Back button. Something like this would have been unheard of on iOS a few years back.

With the Chrome integration tools, Google explains in a support doc, iOS developers can write apps that “open a web page in Chrome and then return to your app with just one tap.”

chrome back button
Chrome’s ‘back to app’ button is sort of like the jailbreak tweak called AppSlide.

When developers implement Chrome web links support, users can return to their apps after opening a web link in Chrome with just a single tap, as depicted above.

As for rich desktop notifications in Chrome, you can enable these by running Chrome for Mac with the –enable-rich-notifications switch.

So, Could Google Now for Mac prove to be a big deal?

And would you be willing to give it a try?