Google, Apple Battle Ratchets Up with Google's Purchase of reMail

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-02-18

Google and Apple are engaged in application guerilla warfare.

Google Feb. 18 acquired reMail, a startup whose application downloads users' e-mail to their Apple iPhone and lets users conduct full-text e-mail search.

The purchase was first reported by reMail founder Gabor Cselle, a former Google engineering intern who will be rejoining Google as a product manager on the Gmail team.

The hire and acquisition alone aren't such big news, but it's what Google is doing with reMail. Cselle said in a blog post Google and reMail have removed reMail's iPhone application from Apple's App Store and will discontinue it. ReMail will continue to work for those who downloaded it, with support running through March 31.

The prevailing sentiment is that Google will have Cselle build a reMail-like application for Google's Android platform. If this is the case, Google has struck a blow to Apple, which has more than 100,000 apps in its vaunted but Draconian App Store.

The hints are subtle, but undeniable. eWEEK asked Google about its designs for Cselle and the reMail technology. A Google spokesperson was vague beyond implying Cselle will work on Google's mobile Gmail efforts.

"We're excited to welcome Gabor to Google, and we're looking forward to continuing to improve the e-mail experience on mobile devices. Other than that, I don't have any specific info to share."

Meanwhile, Cselle noted: "reMail's goal was reimagine mobile e-mail, and I'm proud we have built a product that so many users find useful. Still, I feel like we've only seen the beginning of what's possible. Google is the best place in the world to improve the status quo on how people communicate and share information."

ReadWriteWeb's Marshall Kirkpatrick highlighted the blow to Apple and boon for Google:

"That Google just bought something that's all about one of the iPhone's core functions, e-mail, is interesting. Sure, the app is shuttered now, but imagine if Apple had decided to buy reMail instead. If Cselle was working on the iPhone's native e-mail application, that would have been better for Apple than this may turn out to be if he helps make Android's e-mail the best in the mobile world."

This isn't the first time Google struck at Apple's iPhone ecosystem. Google made a major march on the App Store when it moved to purchase AdMob last November.

AdMob's claim to fame is that it has the most amount of advertising placed within iPhone applications. In acquiring AdMob, Google would gain incredible insight into the App Store, providing a competitive advantage for Google as it seeks to grow the Android platform.

Apple isn't standing still. The company bought Quattro Wireless in response to the AdMob bid, but its most notorious offensive on Google was rejecting the original Google Latitude and Google Voice application submissions and forcing Google to rewrite them as Web apps.

There has also been speculation that Apple is planning to replace Google with Microsoft Bing as the default search engine for its iPhone. Moreover, Apple is patenting geolocation apps that would compete with Google Apps such as Latitude.

Google's acquisition of reMail underscores that the application guerilla warfare with Apple is continuing apace.

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