Bing/Google Now: Context Wins

I woke up this morning and my Galaxy Tablet reminded me that I have some phone calls, an offsite meeting that will take approximately 20 minutes to drive to, and some interesting news as well as a weather report. It’s easy to overlook how far we have come in the quest to provide useful personal assistants.

Screenshot_2013-03-12-09-20-01While catching up on some reading two articles jumped out at me that really drove home this point, the first is really incremental in nature about Google Now coming to the desktop and the Chrome OS.

Google Now is something that snuck up on me and despite my initial cynicism it has grown on me. When I updated my tablet to Jelly Bean I stumbled on the Now feature when I held the Home button for a little too long. The cards are still pretty sparse but I really like how it pulls things out of my email and present additional contextual information like directions and time to drive, and package tracking information. This is really useful and unobtrusive. I don’t have to manage it, things just happen.

I only wish that Now would support multiple accounts.

The more interesting news piece I read this morning was about Microsoft’s research project, coincidentally (or not) called Bing Now. What is really fascinating about this is how Microsoft is looking beyond what you have on your device and realizing the greater vision of “an internet of things”.

Heavily invested in the vocabulary of crowdsoucing, I think this misses the point that it’s not about crowdsourcing but rather networked devices. Crowdsourcing implies co-creation, being able to find restaurant that isn’t crowded is incredibly appealing and not at all a function of crowdsourcing in the traditional sense of the word. Having said that, if Microsoft can deliver even just a small part of this they will have a winner.