Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Movie Tickets, Real Estate and a New Widget for Google Now

The Android app Google Now — with its promise to provide personalized, highly relevant, in-the-moment information — is one of the more interesting projects in consumer tech these days. But at this stage, its developments are incremental. Today, Google is releasing a trio of updates to the product that help users get stuff done quickly.

The first is a richer Google Now “card” for movies that incorporates movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes and ticket purchasing from Fandango.

So, a scenario where this might come in handy:

  1. Google detects a pattern of searching for movies, perhaps on a certain day of the week
  2. around that day, it starts showing a card with movie reviews and a way to directly purchase tickets
  3. a user buys a ticket
  4. that user arrives at the theater location at the time of the movie, and Google Now automatically pulls up a mobile ticket so she can walk directly in.

What’s odd about Google Now — but also, key to the philosophy of the product — is that this all happens in the background. There’s no real way to go to Google Now and explicitly request it to do something for you. Instead, you have to trust the great Googley Moogley machine to automatically detect what might be useful and do it for you.

“If we don’t have anything for you, we shouldn’t notify you and risk being annoying,” explained Google Now product manager Baris Gultekin today. “We like to be as relevant as possible.”

Next, Google Now has also built a real estate card through a partnership with Zillow. So if Google Now detects that a user is in the market for a new home via repeat real estate searches, it will trigger a card with nearby listings in the area. And when a user with that card walks into an open house, Google Now will detect the location and show information about the house.

What’s next for the Google Now product roadmap is not some giant leap forward, according to Gultekin. Rather, it’s more of these incremental improvements.

“There are so many different situations when our users need help,” Gultekin explained. “My goal is to anticipate all your needs and anticipate the right thing when you need it. It’s a huge undertaking. We are basically trying to focus on trying to get you information you need when you need it before you ask.”

But the Google Now team — which originated as a 20 percent project in Google Maps but now is part of Android — is making one more change today to be a little less subtle than it has been.

Since it was debuted at the Google I/O developer conference last summer, Google Now has been available on certain Android devices when the user swipes upward. That’s cool, and something no other Android app has access to, but if you don’t know to swipe up, you might never see it.

So, also in today’s update, there’s going to now be a Google Now widget for users’ home screens that automatically updates to show a glance at the top-most card.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald