updated 10:06 am EST, Thu February 27, 2014
All Nexus, Google Play Edition devices can download new launcher
Google has added the Google Now Launcher to the Play Store, allowing the software that first appeared on the Nexus 5 to be used on other devices. The free launcher, formerly known as the Google Experience Launcher, adds a number of features not offered in the original Android 4.4 launcher, including a dedicated Home Screen page for Google now, as well as performing hands-free voice searches by uttering "OK Google" before the search query.
The same update makes the status and navigation bars more translucent, allowing more of the background image to be seen, and includes a wallpaper picker that will use any local or cloud-stored image to be used. In order to make transitioning to the launcher easier, a migration tool at launch will import app icons from the existing home screen into the new version.
Google Now Launcher
While the launcher is downloadable from Google Play, not everyone will be able to use it. Nexus devices and Google Play Edition smartphones running Android KitKat will be able to download and install the launcher, but it is possible the company could open it up to other devices in the future. If it does so, it will give Google a way to let everyone use the stock Android experience instead of their smartphone or tablet manufacturer's own user interface, and allowing for updates to occur without waiting for both the manufacturer and the device's carrier to incorporate it.