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Google Now may migrate from Android to become a Web app

Signs are emerging that the virtual assistant Google Now will be offered on platforms other than Android.

Google Now may soon escape the confines of Android, if the signs of a coming Web version are to be believed.

As the Google Operating System blog points out, numerous mentions of Google Now have appeared in the source code of a search page that's tested by Google. "Get started with Google Now. Just the right information at just the right time," says one reference, suggesting that users will have to opt into the service, just as they do on Android phones.

The page also prompts users to edit their home and work locations, promising to show "relevant information like weather, traffic conditions, and nearby places."

Google Now is the virtual assistant that made its debut in Android 4.1, as a feature within the Google Search app. Its goal is to automatically provide users with important information, such as traffic during the drive home, weather on upcoming trips, the arrival time of the next bus or train (when the user is at a public transit stop), and things to do nearby.

Engadget notes that the source code mentions "now_card" on several occasions. It seems likely that a Web version of Google Now would use the same card-based interface found in the Android version and in some existing Web searches. (For instance, a search for "weather" on Google brings up a card that looks similar to the one that appears in Google Now's Android app.) It's unclear whether a Web version of Google Now would appear only on the Google home page, or alongside other search results.

Expanding turf is logical

This isn't the first sign of Google Now expanding beyond its Android roots. Google has reportedly been working on bringing the virtual assistant to the Chrome browser, which would support desktop notifications. Google Now is also a major feature in Google Glass, the high-tech glasses that are based on Android. Google has hinted at an iPhone version of Google Now, but hasn't actually submitted it.

It makes sense for Google to try to bring its virtual assistant to other devices and platforms, though timing is uncertain. Google might want to hurry, however, because the idea doesn't seem all that difficult to copy. Just last week, an app called Osito emerged for the iPhone, and it provides almost the exact same functionality as Google Now. The idea of a virtual assistant is still new, but Google could make it a mainstream concept by branching out from Android to other platforms.

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