Report: Apple May Launch Google Now Competitor At June WWDC Event

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According to an extensive report in 9to5 Mac Apple is about to bring to market a Google Now and potential search competitor, with comparable “predictive search” functionality. Microsoft’s Cortana also features predictive capabilities that Apple’s Siri lacks.

The new capability, allegedly codenamed “Proactive,” is built partly on Apple’s acquisition of personal virtual assistant Cue (founded as Greplin), in late 2013 for an estimated $35 million to $45 million. Like Google Now and Cortana, Cue used emails, contacts other on-device content to present an overview of to-dos, upcoming meetings and other information such as flight reservations.

According to 9to5 Mac, Proactive will provide time-sensitive and relevant contextual information and become a successor to Spotlight search (although chances are the Spotlight name will be retained; Proactive is too close to acne medication Proactiv).

Beyond the above, the new capabilities will include augmented reality content in Apple Maps:

Like Google Now, 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.

As an evolution of iOS’s Spotlight search feature, Proactive is the fruit of a long-term initiative that involved the acquisition of small app developers, and integration of core iOS apps. It will also work with Apple’s Maps application to display personally relevant points of interest using an augmented reality interface, and integrate with a third-party Siri API codenamed “Breadcrumbs”

Apple may introduce Proactive at the forthcoming Worldwide Developers Conference on June 8. Perhaps most interestingly, 9to5 Mac says that, “Proactive will become a new layer within the iOS operating system, replacing the pull-down Spotlight menu currently found on the iOS Home screen.”

The article goes on to assert that the new Spotlight/Proactive search capabilities will be more prominent and accessible from a pull-down and to the left of the homescreen. It speculates that this will “take searches away from Google’s window within Safari.”

The report contains considerably more detailed speculation about various new iOS functionality and capabilities. It cautions, however, that it might not all show up next month at WWDC.

Apple’s Siri has fallen behind Google and Microsoft, lacking the full range of contextual and predictive assistant capabilities the others possess. It thus makes sense that Apple would seek to introduce these new features to play catch up. The Cue acquisition suggested this more than a year ago.

The more general search capabilities discussed in the article and whether they will in fact “take away” search queries from Google very much remain to be seen. The larger issue is probably whether Google retains its “default” position on Safari.

According to the NY Times, “Goldman Sachs estimated that Google collected about $11.8 billion on mobile search ads in 2014, with about 75 percent coming from ads on iPhones and iPads.”

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