I have been accused of being a “Google basher”. This is rather unfair. It would be hypocritical to use so many of their products and complain. Google Now might well be called “Google Creepy”. It draws on my email, calendar, gps, web searches and many many other bits of information I voluntarily hand over to them everyday. And it gives me better advice. It knows what I am really looking for.
Anyway you look at it, when you conduct a web search it is well worth sitting back and thinking about it: “You have just got relevant information from the sum total of human data available on a vast international network in 0.8 seconds“. That’s not quite how it says it at the bottom of every Google search, but it sure could boast if it wanted to. Nothing comes close.
Which of course is why Apple bought Cue. A desperate effort to get Siri slightly more intelligent by using what little social context you are willing to give it plus access to your mailbox. Much like Apple’s humbling experience with maps, the point is to buy in some know how. Just enough new features for them to talk about at the next iPhone or iOs launch. Enough to keep the fans happy. But nowhere near as much substance as Google Now.
What this approach to customization is effectively doing is making it even harder to monitor what Apple and Google are doing with our data. Like the Hummingbird changes to Google search, they are introducing an even bigger “not provided” category in Google Analytics. You will not know how visitors got to your website as it is not a simple matter of keywords anymore. It might be because Google Now algorithmically guessed really well, or it might be influenced by an Ad campaign or it might even be the NSA giving Google instructions to get you to land on a website. We simply won’t know and there will be no way to reverse engineer it easily either.
So no, I’m not Google bashing. I am in awe of the company’s ability to walk that fine line. They persuade us that what they offer is so useful that it really is worth handing over personal data for it. But Apple? What exactly are they offering?