Chrome beta users get an assist from Google Now

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IDG NEWS SERVICE – Google Now is moving out of the lab and onto the desktop in the beta version of Chrome.

Starting this week, Chrome beta users can view Google Now “cards” within the notifications area on Windows, Mac, and Chrome OS. The cards should show up automatically if you’re already using Google Now on Android or iOS, and have signed into Chrome with the same Google account.

Google Now is a virtual assistant that tries to anticipate the information you want, such as the weather, traffic, travel details, and upcoming reservations. Much of that information is based on activity from your Google account. For example, Google Now can detect flight confirmations in Gmail and notify you about any delays; it can also look at your Web searches to infer what breaking news topics you’d be interested in.

The service first launched for Android in 2012, making its way to the iPhone last April as part of the Google Search app. There have been hints of a desktop version since early last year; last month, it finally launched as an experimental feature—not enabled by default—within Chrome Canary. While the feature rolls out to the Chrome beta channel this week, it’s already available through theChrome dev channel.

The arrival of Google Now is the search giant’s biggest step yet toward a convergence of Chrome and Android. Google has said that it won’t merge the two platforms anytime soon, but that it wants to have a more consistent experience across both platforms. Along that line, Google recently started letting Chrome developers create standalone Web apps for Android.

Having Google Now in Chrome could be useful for certain things, such as traffic on your upcoming commute or reminders of when to leave for your next appointment. But it could also be a nuisance for less important things such as sports scores.

If you’d rather not see Google Now notifications, click the bell icon in your notification area (lower-right corner in Windows, upper-right on Macs), then click the gear icon in the Notifications Center and uncheck the “Google Now” box.

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