Apr 19 AT 8:20 AM Dustin Earley 22 Comments

What I want to see at Google I/O: Third-party developer support for Google Now

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Google is relatively well know for embracing third-party developers. Where iOS forces users to stick with default browsers and email clients, use limited sharing options and keep their home screen just how Apple likes it, Google excels in handing over the keys to the kingdom. This goes for services too, where developers have been able to leverage products like Google Maps to make fantastically fast and accurate location-based software. This year at Google I/O, I’d like to see Google give third-party developers access to another one of their amazing services, Google Now. If you thought Google’s automated digital assistant of the future is impressive now, just think of the possibilities.

Released today for iOS, Osito is a Google Now clone for Apple products. It not only looks the same, but functions the same as well. You plug in some accounts, and Osito uses your location, email and calendar to bring you useful information exactly when you need it. When I first heard about Osito, I thought it seemed like a great idea, to beat Google out the door and try to establish an active user base as soon as possible. But Google is so powerful, and has so many people working on Now, there’s no way Osito could possibly keep up. And then I read something unique about Osito: it’s going to be opened up to third-party developers.

Instead of just relying on what Osito itself can offer, the app will let third-party developers have at it. As Ellis Hamburger writes in his look at Osito on The Verge, “You can imagine future integrations where Osito’s API ties in with IFTTT to text your spouse when you’ve arrived at work or send a tweet when you’re on the way home. You could set up Foursquare to ping you with recommendations when you land in a new city.”

Google’s restaurant and places ratings are great, and Google+ is one of my networks of choice, but both may not always be my first choice. I’d like to get Foursquare or Yelp cards in Google Now, because my friends use Foursquare and Yelp. When it’s one of my friends birthday’s, I’d like to be able to wish them a good day on Twitter or Facebook. I’d like to choose what service provides me with the information I see in Google Now, something that feels like right up Google’s alley.

The rate at which Google has rolled out features to Google Now has been meticulous. They’ve made sure not to push too much at once, and provided just the right amount of control to users when it comes to the appearance of cards and how frequently they’re displayed. Developers looking to utilize Google Now would have to follow strict design and notification guidelines, but that wouldn’t be a problem. If Google made Now integration easy enough, third-party services would be clamoring at the chance to put their cards, and their notifications, exactly where you need them, when you need them.

It would be like giving a steroid injection to a handful of already incredibly useful apps, pushing Google ahead of the competition even further. And that’s not even really diving in to the location-aware triggers aspect third-party developers could bring to the table. The creator of Osito, Bill Ferrell, mentioned in an interview that he set up a trigger with Osito to turn on a lava lamp when he enters his office. The possibilities there are endless.

We’re bound to see a lot of great things at Google I/O 2013, but third-party Google Now access is easily at the top of my list. The deep system integration and one-stop-shop information hub aspects of Google Now already causes me to use it more than apps that provide similar information, even when those apps provide information that’s closer to what I’m looking for. Google Now is easier, so most of the time I just don’t bother. But there are times when I have look for information elsewhere.

With third-party integration, Google Now would be all I ever need, and a whole lot more.

Dustin Earley: Tech enthusiast; avid gamer; all around jolly guy.

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