Google's Sparrow Acquisition Is Not a Death Knell For a "Beautiful" Gmail Experience

Sparrow + Google

Released on the Mac App Store on February 9, 2011, Sparrow has today been acquired by Google. ONE37 received an official statement from a Google spokesperson regarding the acquisition:

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.

Despite rampant uproar as to the sanctity of the extraordinarily popular email client, initial indications suggest that the Sparrow experience is far from buried. Although the Sparrow brand may well have been shuttered and doomed to stagnation, Dominique Leca and his cohorts have evidently been tasked with the revitalization of Google’s flagging mobile app presence in a very meaningful manner. Regardless of Twitter-driven hyperbole, indications from sources at Google point toward the Google-branded resurrection of Sparrow’s experiential essence from the ashes of its once-great OS X and iOS clients.

Having built Sparrow upon the foundation of establishing an unquestionably good Gmail experience for OS X, Sparrow’s roots clearly reside within the bounds of Google’s domain. For well over a year, Mac users have enjoyed the delightfully minimalist experience tendered by Sparrow for OS X and, more recently, iOS users have been graced with an equally polished experienced.

Sparrow’s successes, of course, lie in famously stark contrast to that of Google’s own software offerings. Gmail for iOS is frequently remembered for its laughable entry into the iOS App Store in late 2011. Boasting a web-view driven interface, an experience riddled with inconsistencies and faults, and a distinct lack of fluency, Google’s offering remains the laughing stock of the broader iOS development community. Despite being forced into foregoing push notifications, Sparrow for iPhone, on the other hand, continues to exist as a point of poignant embarrassment for Google, insofar as its internal team has shown a woeful lack of proficiency in improving its mobile presence.

Given Apple’s well-documented endeavors to subtract Google from the iOS equation, it is more important than ever for Google to construct and establish a well-engrained experience for iOS users. As Google Maps edge closer to their exit from iOS, Google is tasked with out-doing Apple on its own grounds. With Sparrow’s many successes in mind, an acqui-hire scenario is steeped in the tenets of logic, rationality, and forward-thinking planning.

Thus, contrary to the skepticism bounding across Twitter, indications from Mountain View point toward a unique opportunity for cooperation and introspective improvement. Revitalizing Google’s mobile presence is likely a priority for the search giant, and Dominique and his team have proven — in an awfully embarrassing manner — that they are more than capable of successfully carrying out such a lofty goal. As is indicated by the banner image above Dominique’s official letter to Sparrow users, the equation at hand here is simply “Sparrow + Google,” and nothing more than that.

Given Google’s far-reaching capabilities, funds, and historical penchant for innovation, I cannot help but view this acquisition as a potential medium through which Sparrow’s initial goal might be achieved. Sporting direct access to Google servers, Sparrow will competently be able to leverage push notifications, deeper-integration, and potentially novel takes on the traditional Gmail experience. Perhaps the beloved Sparrow brand has been cast aside, but that is certainly not to say that the affable spirit of the app and its team cannot protrude through the vast facade of Google’s Gmail division.

Evidently purchased for somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 million, Google may well have attained a bargain deal for a remarkable development team. Moreover, for $25 million, Google has successfully established a solid, proven inroad into the competitive world of iOS and Mac software. Despite any emotionally defaulted reactions on Twitter, I cannot help but feel somewhat optimistic for what the future may hold for Dominique, his team, and the Sparrow experience that we have all come to know and appreciate.