Yesterday Google announced Q4 and full year 2014 results. The company made a boatload of money ($18 billion) but still fell short of Wall Street expectations. That resulted in a short-lived stock drop, which recovered as people realized things “weren’t as bad as feared,” to quote one analyst.
Google continues to struggle in mobile to generate revenue growth. Mobile CPCs (search and display) are less than on the PC. This, despite the fact that Google is overwhelming the dominant mobile search engine, with an 84% share of mobile search in the US and 92% worldwide.
Conventional search (query in a box) in a mobile context is a somewhat awkward product. But Google Now, by contrast, is a fantastic product and well adapted to mobile with its time and context awareness. It makes sense that Google would continue to build it out as both an alternative to its main mobile search — it’s “predictive search” — and as something entirely different, along the lines of a virtual assistant.
Today Google opened up Now to third party developers, starting with 30+ hand-picked apps. Among them: TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Kayak, Ford, The Economist, Smart News, Zillow, Duolingo, Lyft and others. Content from these developers/apps will appear as “cards” within the Google Now experience, triggered by different variables (time, location, etc.).
This is very smart and useful all the way around. This is another “notification” tool or channel for publishers and developers to build engagement with users. And it’s way less annoying than conventional notifications.
It’s Android only “for the time being” according to Google. But I suspect Google will expand the capability to the iPhone.
In mobile Google has been trying to reinsert itself between the user and content, a role it has successfully played on the PC. In mobile Google is used far less for navigational purposes. Google’s “deep linking” initiative should be seen in this context: trying to make mobile search more relevant and useful and trying to put Google back into the center of the user experience.
In a way, third party content integration into Google Now replicates that “discovery” or “curation” role that Google plays on the PC. Google Now thus becomes a doorway into content from across the mobile web. It also makes the product into a “platform” that will likely boost frequency and engagement as well.