Popular Science, which was launched in 1872 according to Wikipedia, has given their “Innovation of the Year” award to Google Now. Not only that, they called Apple's Siri “outdated by comparison”. So what is Google Now and why is it getting so much praise?
Let's start by talking about Siri, which Apple unveiled to the world when they launched the iPhone 4S in late 2011. Siri was supposed to be a personal assistant you could give commands to and also ask it some questions. The thing is, when the iPhone 4S launched, Apple wasn't ready. Siri was often unavailable, and more often than not it completely failed to recognize what it is you said.
A little over half a year later, in June of this year, Google showed off Google Now. Unlike Siri, which was billed as a service you would talk to and then it would respond, Google made Google Now “smart” by allowing it to keep on top of things for you in the background. So say you just landed at an airport. If you booked a hotel and received a confirmation via Gmail, Google will be smart enough to give you directions to that hotel as soon as you turn on your phone. You literally don't have to do anything. And if you're a sports fan, just look up your favorite team once, then any time they're playing a game, you'll have their scores right in front of you.
What's next for Google Now? That's hard to say, but it's becoming increasingly obvious that the future of computing is about voice. Instead of tapping on a piece of glass that's getting larger and larger with each passing year, Google thinks we're going to wear our next computer, à la Google Glass.
Can Apple make Siri as good as Google Now? Probably not. Google's expertise is in data and online services. Apple meanwhile, they sure do know how to make pretty objects and easy to use software, but they've yet to prove themselves in the cloud arena.