Google has acquired Sparrow, a lightweight email client for Mac and iPhone, with the intention of using its team’s knowledge to bolster Gmail. Terms of the deal went undisclosed.
Sparrow for Mac offers Dropbox and Facebook Connect integration, a Quick Reply function, and a customizable inbox; the iPhone version has been optimized for swiping between conversations, folders, messages, and so on.
“We care a lot about how people communicate, and we did our best to provide you with the most intuitive and pleasurable mailing experience,” read a note signed by CEO Dom Leca on Sparrow’s homepage. “Now we’re joining the Gmail team to accomplish a bigger vision—one that we think we can better achieve with Google.”
Leca indicated that, while his team will work on “new things” at Google, it plans on continuing Sparrow email and support.
Earlier this year, Google CEO Larry Page told investors that Gmail had more than 350 million users. Despite its success in amassing a large customer base, though, Gmail had a bumpy start as an iOS app. Soon after launching the app in November 2011, Google was forced to pull it down after users discovered a bug with the notifications system. “Sorry we messed up,” read the accompanying Twitter message.
Gmail—or any email service, for that matter—needs to convince iOS users that its app offers a superior experience to Apple’s native email app, which has the added advantage of combining email boxes from multiple services into a single interface. That means superior features designed to draw in a user base; and thus Google’s hunt for smaller companies with the ability to design such features.
Gmail also finds itself challenged by Hotmail and Yahoo, which still retain millions of users. Over the past few quarters, Microsoft has tweaked Hotmail in a variety of ways, including the installation of new security features and “graymail” detection. At Yahoo, the recent appointment of former Google executive Marissa Mayer as CEO could foreshadow some radical product changes—which in turn could revive Yahoo Mail as a fierce competitor.