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CommonTime Enterprise Mobility Blog

How Google are Building a Connected Web of Applications

I’ll Google it. How often do you use that phrase? Few companies are able to claim they are so universally known that their very name has become a verb. In fact, if you were to open a new internet browser tab right now - statistically speaking, you would be more likely to be greeted by the Google homepage than any other.

Google is, after all, the most popular website in the world, handling over 2.3 million searches every minute of the day. It’s so popular, in fact, that a system-wide outage of less than 5 minutes in 2013 led to a 40% decrease of all global web traffic almost instantly.

Search has become just one small piece of Google’s empire though as the company seeks to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.

The Rise of G Suite

With the launch of Google Apps (recently rebranded to G Suite) in 2006, it could be argued that the company’s emphasis was moved from search onto consumer applications. This led to the creation of what are now household names in their own right. Gmail, Drive, Maps, Chrome and others, have all developed into market leaders or close challengers.

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Gmail has over a billion users worldwide and has surpassed Outlook to become the world’s most popular email service. Chrome toppled Internet Explorer’s dominance of the browser market after a decade at the top, and is now the market leader with 44.5 percent of users. Users of Google Maps are guided through over 12 billion miles of travel every year. And Google Maps even holds the record for the most used API, as tracked by ProgrammableWeb.

That’s a lot of users. But this count doesn’t even take into consideration other the full plethora of Google web applications, which includes Street-view, Docs, AdWords, Hangouts, Analytics, Earth, YouTube and more. It should be no surprise that Google dominates the consumer web application market.

All of these services amount to a powerful combination of apps, users and data. Combined, this has formed the basis of a growing trend - the exchange of data between web based applications to enhance functionality.

Data Exchange vs App Indexing

A calendar integrating with an email account is almost expected functionality. As is integrating a document management system with file editors. However, by recreating these fundamental connections on the web - Google have opened up a new wave of interconnectivity opportunities.

Right now, it’s possible to launch the Google Maps smartphone application direct from your browser. Pretty useful deep link right? But what if that could still happen regardless of whether or not the Google Maps application is installed on your device. This is a vastly different scenario, but something that is already possible in the Android ecosystem.

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"App indexing allows Google to provide in-app content within the smartphone browser itself."

This is easy enough when Google are able to develop the three components involved in such an interaction: the browser, search interface and application. However, the practice of indexing and opening applications within a browser becomes much more complex when considering the broader context.

App indexing and the recently launched Instant Apps initiative provides a new, more fluid experience to Android users, presenting relevant in-app pages in their intended format rather than a mobile site of variable quality. There’s also a surprising number of additional security benefits too. By loading apps within a browser, it is possible to access in-app features and data without requiring a download (especially useful in an enterprise environment).

Browser based app indexing negates that issue and removes security concerns - however it replaces them with other difficult questions such as: where should a website end and an app start? Can app content be licensed or protected? What are the impacts on enterprise MDM policy? How are apps discovered and are there effects on interaction rates?

There is much uncertainty around this topic at the moment and Google itself does not hold all of the answers. Many of these questions are cultural and revolve around consumer interaction patterns. Google’s intentions, however, are clear - as the launch of the Pixel phone would indicate.

Pixel, Android and G Suite

At first glance the move into the smartphone hardware market seemed out of character. Google has historically distanced itself from the device sales dogfight between Apple and Samsung, so why enter the market now?

However, speculation over machine learning trends may shed some light on the unusual move. More focus is now placed on how devices interact with consumers and learn through preferences, browsing habits, location and more. The result is a personalised and, in theory, preferable experience.

The Google Assistant (formerly Google Now) acts as the perfect catalyst for this change and is more effective on hardware which is designed to support the goal. This new Google AI is conversational by design and able to answer follow up questions or commands after any query. That functionality forms a powerful part of the new Pixel phone proposition.

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"The conversational Google Home assistant blurs the distinction between application, OS and hardware."

With planned improvements to include third party app integration, the power of the Google Assistant grows again. Simply say ‘OK Google, order me an Uber’ and it’s on its way. Additionally, the launch of the voice driven Google Home assistant is already beginning to blur the lines between application, operating system and hardware - a great platform to get ready for the widely predicted IoT revolution.

Following the Blueprint

These trends highlight the ongoing integration of web pages and app pages into one unilateral online presence, so businesses need to change and adapt their online offering to match this changing digital landscape.

Supported by increasingly sophisticated low-code app development platforms, this shift to app development for inclusion in Google’s new app indexing and instant app technology will be vital to cloud software success in the future.

See how you can start building enterprise grade apps with ease - download the low code CommonTime Infinity platform for free today.

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Posted by Dan McCarthy

Dan is an marketing graduate and CIM associate with a background in educational and healthcare IT. With a career spanning account management, marketing and product, Dan understands and manages new releases and marketing campaigns across CommonTime.