Google's bundling of a launcher with their Search app is not newsworthy

I very much enjoy reading +Ron Amadeo's pieces, but I think this one is largely off the mark.

To me, the fact that Google are have opted to package their launcher code with their Search app is no more worthy of discussion than the fact that Google Maps and Google Local shared the same APK (the AOSP Camera and Gallery do the same).

Clearly, Google decided they wanted users to be a single swipe away from Now on the launcher, so that raised the problem of how best to achieve this. 

One route would have been to release a dedicated widget, but given the technical limitations of Android's widgets[1], this would have meant a sub-par experience. I don't believe making 'a few tweaks to Android's widget framework' would let them replicate the full Now feed experience in a dedicated widget. At least not without other implications elsewhere in the system. 

I'd imagine Google simply came to the conclusion that the best way to seamlessly allow swiping between a home screen page and the Now feed was to integrate the Now and the launcher into the same app, so that's what they did.

Also, in light of Ron's previous "Google’s iron grip on Android" piece [2], which pointed out how Google were increasingly bringing apps in-house and not releasing the source for their improved apps, I think it's worth mentioning that Google did indeed release the source code for this updated launcher[3], which clearly they didn't have to do.

Having built and run this code myself, I can tell you the only meaningful feature Google Home has over it is the swipe for Google Now (which you would expect, given that Now is clearly a custom Google app).


[1] As an example, horizontal swipes don't work on widgets, nor can custom views be used.
[2] http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/10/googles-iron-grip-on-android-controlling-open-source-by-any-means-necessary/
[3] https://android.googlesource.com/platform/packages/apps/Launcher3/+/kitkat-release
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