App: Google Search
Publisher: Google, Inc.
Release date: October 23, 2012; Updated November 12, 2012 for Windows RT
Supported platforms: (x86), Windows 8 (x64), Windows RT
Note: The Google Search app is now available for Windows RT as well. (The original version was not.)
Online advertising giant Google surprised onlookers by releasing its first Metro-styled app for Windows 8 this week. But the Google Search app is only new to this platform: It’s a port of the Google Search app for iPhone. (The Google app for Windows Phone is much less full-featured and thus somewhat unrelated.)
And there’s nothing wrong with that. Just as the iPhone version of this app provides a way for Google users to access their favorite services from their handset of choice, this Metro app allows Windows 8 device users to do the same. It’s also an interesting preview, perhaps, of a coming Chrome app for Windows 8.
It all starts with a nice tutorial and, as you might expect, this app works a bit better with a touch screen than it does on a conventional PC.
Google Search for Windows 8 provides the same basic features in the iOS app. You get a nice, big, touch-friend search box, providing you with access to the world’s most popular search engine.
Results appear as they do on the Google web site, and when you navigate into an actual site linked to from Google, that site opens within the Google app rather than triggering IE 10.
One hidden purpose behind this app is its ability to embed Google’s search service directly into Windows 8, like a tick: Now, when you use the system-wide Search charm, you can target your search at Google instead of Bing.
But numerous key Google services are available directly through the app as well. You can perform voice searches using your PC’s microphone, which is nice. But the Apps link provides a grid of Google web apps, similar to the new tab view in Google Chrome. These include in-app access to Gmail, Google Calendar, YouTube, Google Reader, Google Maps, and much, much more.
Missing, however, is the Google Goggles feature from the iOS app. This lets you identify items in the real world, similar to Bing Vision on Windows Phone. This isn’t a huge loss when you consider that a phone is far more likely to be accompanying you around in the world than is a Windows 8 tablet.
Overall, Google Search is a surprisingly solid entry and a must-have app for anyone using both Windows 8/RT and Google services.