After years of collaboration with Google, NORAD decided to partner with Microsoft instead last year to release its Santa Tracker app exclusively on Windows 8. That's not going to change this year, but Google will be releasing its own Santa Tracker app that takes advantage of the new Google Maps.
Google announced today that it's launching the Google Santa Tracker just in time for Christmas. As you would expect, the main focus of the tracker is to let children chart Santa's journey on Christmas Eve using Google Maps, but it's so much more.
Google's Santa Tracker app doubles as an interactive advent calendar of sorts that unlocks new games and animated shorts every day leading up to Christmas. All of these games and animated shorts tell a story of how the North Pole prepares for Christmas. Here's my personal favorite so far:
While the Santa Tracker can already be accessed on the Web, Google will also be releasing new mobile apps in the middle of December. The Android Santa Tracker app will feature games and a Santa Tracker app powered by Google apps. The app also supports Google Chromecast so you'll be able to stream your phone's content to the TV.
Interestingly enough, Google will be releasing a Santa Tracker app for Google Glass as well. This seems a little strange as Google has repeatedly stated that Glass is not intended for children, but the only people who would be really interested in a Santa Tracker app are said children. The only use for this I can see is a parent impressing their child by saying that they has a direct line to Santa embedded in their eyewear.
As for other features, Google is setting up a social media service that will let you send postcards and calls from Santa to friends and family members during the holidays. You can also look for Santa on Google Maps by simply typing in "Santa" into the search box, but this feature will only be available on Christmas Eve.
Finally, you can grab the Santa Tracker Chrome extension to keep track of how many days are left until Christmas. You can also customize the Google homepage with three animations, including one that covers the entire page in frost.
If you still yearn for the authentic NORAD experience, you can check out what they've got cooking in collaboration with Microsoft over here. The site is built with Internet Explorer 11 in mind, but Chrome or Firefox should work just fine.[Image: Google Santa Tracker]