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Proactive for iOS 9: Apple's challenge to Google Now

Siri and iOS haven't yet been able to contend with the full range of contextual notifications Google Now provides. That's likely to change in a way that protects user privacy.
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Written by Kevin Tofel, Contributing Writer on

I've long felt it's past time that Siri became less of a limited voice command or query tool and more of a personal software assistant. It seems Apple may finally agree.

The company is reportedly working on a new iOS app called Proactive that will bring more smarts to Siri and better compete with Google Now, according to 9to5 Mac:

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.

The respecting of user privacy is a potentially big difference from Google Now, which requires access to your email, calendar, contacts, location and other personal information.

Google takes that data to proactively notify users of important reminders, traffic that could interfere with upcoming appointments and more. It sounds like Proactive will have a similar feature set but the data won't be collected for later use in targeted advertising.

According to 9to5 Mac's sources, Proactive may take the place of the pull-down Spotlight universal search found in iOS today. And it would likely have a wider range of search results, including related news, apps, contacts and map information, gathering travel data from stored boarding passes in Passbook, for example.

The software is even expected to learn when you use certain apps and populate the Proactive screen with information from them at the at that time. I tend to check a few social networks with my first cup of coffee every morning, for example; Proactive could bundle updates from all of them in one spot after the alarm wakes me up.

The trick for Apple is do this in a way that doesn't feel "creepy" as some suggest Google Now can be.

Given its track record for doing so in a way that users feel is beneficial, I suspect Apple will succeed in this regard. And once again, it will innovate on what its competitors have previously built, improving the experience and giving the company's products another magical feature to market.

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