July 20, 2012

Google’s Purchase Of Sparrow Is Bittersweet

For power email users, Sparrow is a Godsend. It is an elegant email client for the Mac and iPhone that pulls in multiple accounts and syncs them up with Gmail labels.

Yet Sparrow is coming to an end. Sparrow CEO Dom Leca announced today that the company has been acquired by Google. The Verge reported that the price was close to $25 million. The team is planning to head off to California and join their new Gmail colleagues. Google and Sparrow have avoided specifics about what the team will be working on.

“The Sparrow team has always put their users first by focusing on building a seamlessly simple and intuitive interface for their email client. We look forward to bringing them aboard the Gmail team, where they’ll be working on new projects,” a Google spokesperson told me.

There has been much lament across the Internet about this acquisition. To many, it is another small, innovative startup that has been gobbled up by the large and creepy Google. There is certainly some not-so-good news from this, as Sparrow’s Leca has said there will still be support for Sparrow in the near term, but no new features. Apps without updates tend to die a slow death.

Many, such as myself, are drawn to Sparrow because it is a synthesis of excellent design with the power features of Gmail. It also allows me to keep up with multiple email accounts without switching browser tabs. It looks great on the Mac and supplants the stock Mail app on my iPhone with its innovative features.

For iPhone users, it is the best way to get a Gmail-like experience. The Gmail iOS app has been an ugly stepchild to the robust Android version. It is the best way to truly manage one’s email from an iPhone instead of simply replying to messages.

This is a strong acquisition for Google, which has the opportunity to bring the Sparrow team’s design strengths to Gmail. I am hopeful this will eventually mean a native, desktop client for Gmail across multiple platforms. Google’s emphasis on building strong native apps for Android and Chrome OS show the company is no longer looking at just the web for creating strong tools.

Given all it has accomplished with Jelly Bean, there is every indication a robust development pace will continue. One need only look to Android, which has the most complete mobile Gmail app, to see how much the company values its email client.

While the loss of Sparrow will mean some temporary pain, look for Google to bring forth a stronger suite of services in Gmail. Just who this will benefit most remains to be seen.

All Images Credit: Sparrow

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