File this under backward compatibility.
Google Latitude, the search engine's friend-finding location service, is used by millions of Google users from their mobile phones.
For some reason, Google now thinks that people want to follow friends and share their location from their desktops. Google Mobile Software Engineer Kenneth Leftin explained:
"We launched Latitude with a desktop iGoogle gadget to help you stay in touch with friends and family that may not have a smartphone. We've since learned that a desktop experience is important to you even if you're already using Latitude on your phone."
Seems counterintuitive to me at a time when popularity of check-in services such as Foursquare and Gowalla has exploded from mobile phone use alone, but I'll play along.
Now when users go to http://google.com/latitude from their desktop, they can see where their friends are on Google Maps, add friends and accept share requests, and control privacy settings, which let users display, lock in or hide their location on Google Maps.
Here's the Latitude Friends tab:
Finally, there are four Latitude apps users can opt-in to use that will work from the desktop just as they do users' mobile phones.
Next to the Friends tab are those for Location History to show users where they've been when, according to Latitude.
These apps include Google Location Alerts to learn when friends are nearby, Google Talk Location Status to post location in chat status, and a Public Location Badge to publish your location on your blog or site. Hello, Foursquare!
When sharing location via Latitude for the first time, users will need to give Latitude permission to share their location when asked by their Web browser. Standard privacy procedure, of course.
My feeling on this is: If you're on your computer, you're either at home or work, so why check in via the computer? The great part about the mobile phone is that you're likely to use it anywhere.
Of course, if this is being geared with Android tablets in mind, then it makes perfect sense. I suspect users will be more ready to carry their tablets with them than their laptops.
Google's end goal is to keep users connected to their friends through any device, so making Latitude more desktop-, laptop- and tablet-friendly is par for the course at Google.