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Google Buys iPhone Search App, Kills It 223

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the throw-money-at-it dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "PC World reports that Google has acquired a popular iPhone application called reMail that provides 'lightning fast' full-text search of your Gmail and IMAP e-mail accounts. The app downloads copies of all your e-mail which can then be searched with various Boolean options. reMail has only been in the application store for about six months — with a free version limited to one Gmail account and a premium version which can connect to multiple accounts. 'Google and reMail have decided to discontinue reMail's iPhone application, and we have removed it from the App Store,' writes company founder Gabor Cselle, who will be returning to Google as a Product Manager on the Gmail team. Google isn't saying what the fate of reMail might be. Some are suggesting reMail could be integrated into Gmail search or live on in some form as a part of Android, Google's mobile platform. Another possibility is that Google may have snapped up reMail just to kill it, not because reMail was a competitor to anything Google had, but because reMail made the iPhone better or the acquisition may have more to do with keeping good search technology away from the competition, as opposed to an attempt to undercut the iPhone. 'Perhaps Google is just planning to buy up all the iPhone developers, one at a time, until Android is the only game in town,' writes Bill Ray at the Register."
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Google Buys iPhone Search App, Kills It

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  • Fate? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Em Emalb (452530) <(ememalb) (at) (gmail.com)> on Friday February 19, 2010 @12:21PM (#31200330) Homepage Journal

    It'll be "re-incorporated" into some distant version of gmail.

    Otherwise, buying an app like this and not using it is a complete and utter waste of time.

    • Re:Fate? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ceejayoz (567949) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Friday February 19, 2010 @12:23PM (#31200364) Homepage Journal

      Otherwise, buying an app like this and not using it is a complete and utter waste of time.

      They hired the developer, though, and it's not necessarily a waste of time to deprive a competitor of a good application either.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Em Emalb (452530)

        It's the app store, 20 clones will pop up soon enough.

        Like I said, it'll be incorporated into some version of gmail down the line. (My guess anyway)

      • by iamhassi (659463)
        "They hired the developer"

        Can you imagine that? One day you're just another developer of an email app on the iPhone and you get a call from Google saying "HI we're GOOGLE and we like your app. We'd like to hire you as the Product Manager of the GMAIL Team and buy your app from you. How does that sound?"

        Think I'd have a permanent smile for a few weeks
      • Re:Fate? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bill_kress (99356) on Friday February 19, 2010 @02:15PM (#31201864)

        Google tends not to play like that. They actively encourage competition and feel it's good for the marketplace.

        --I got pegged as a microsoft marketing droid once by an AC, Now I just need my Google, linux and Apple "fanboy" creds...

    • by gtall (79522)

      Unless I'm missing something, I don't see why some other enterprising young programmer couldn't produce a similar iPhone app to fill the void. Or that Apple could fold the notion into their mail program (I presume iPhone has an Apple mail widget or app).

    • by Ltap (1572175)
      Yes. Buying something just to kill it is a very Microsoft kind of thing to do. Theoretically it makes good business sense, but considering all of the losing prospects MS has bought over the years, it's really just a giant money drain, since if it was popular at all, someone will come along and do the same thing. I'm guessing that (I don't know the specifics) if Android doesn't have something like this already, the developer will show up six months from now with an Android port.
      • Re:Fate? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by JWW (79176) on Friday February 19, 2010 @02:06PM (#31201768)

        You are correct it is a very Microsoft kind of thing to do. This is definately in the realm of embrace-extend-extinguish.

        BTW: Note to Google, embrace-extend-extinguish is evil.

        Its looking more and more like its well past time for Google to admit that the "Don't be evil." slogan no longer applies anymore.... If it ever really did.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Skuld-Chan (302449)

          This isn't embrace extend and extinguish though. There aren't very many good examples, but two more recent ones are:

          HTML - Microsoft embraced it, then added extensions to it (Active X), and then after bundling it with the most popular OS on the planet it became a widely used standard. So much so that there are still apps out there that only run on IE (SAP client for example).

          Java - Microsoft embraced Java (there was a time when IE had Java support built right in!), they added some extensions to it that only

        • Re:Fate? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Draek (916851) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:32PM (#31202666)

          You are correct it is a very Microsoft kind of thing to do. This is definately in the realm of embrace-extend-extinguish.

          Wrong. Embrace-Extend-Extinguish is when you Embrace a competitor's product/standard, Extend it in ways incompatible with the original product, and Extinguish it by pushing your own product so hard in the minds of consumers it is you, and not your competitor or the standards body, who determines what's the standard to follow.

          What Microsoft tried to do with HTML before Firefox, and Java before the anti-trust lawsuit are E-E-E. Arguably, what Apple, Nokia and Google are trying to do with h.264 and HTML5 is also E-E-E. But simply buying a company that makes a popular product for a competing platform isn't E-E-E, it's just business as usual and examples of such are plentiful in the corporate world.

      • Actually it's a very IBMish kind of thing to do. Unlike you, I have an actual example - Rational Visual Test.

    • Sounds like the same strategy some other big computer company would do and get flamed for it. As far as I am concerned as long as they are going to make an equal or better product I couldn't care less, but still Google is exerting it's influence, money and power to control the intarweb.

      And with that, the troll/flame mods can post their displeasure for my anti-Google statement.
  • lulz (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Friday February 19, 2010 @12:21PM (#31200332) Homepage

    Sounds like a case of Google in a Microsoft's clothing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aztracker1 (702135)

      More like IBM... as far as phone development goes, it's like Android is the Linux of phone platforms (err, wait).

    • Your metaphor is backwards unless you mean to say that Google is wolf-like and Microsoft is sheep-like.

      • by Pojut (1027544)

        In 2010, Google being wolf-like and Microsoft being sheep-like is EXACTLY what I meant.

      • Re:lulz (Score:4, Interesting)

        by afabbro (33948) on Friday February 19, 2010 @02:06PM (#31201762) Homepage

        GPLv2: I know my rights; I want my phone call!

        The right to a phone call is a TV police show myth. There is no such right. It is custom, but not a right, and by no means universal. In some jurisdictions, you may not make phone calls. You have the right to have someone notified, to the extent that you can summon counsel. If the police merely notify the public defender, they have satisfied every legal obligation.

    • Sounds like a case of Google in a Microsoft's clothing.

      Even M$ in its heyday couldn't buy up every App Store gold rusher. But targeting a tactical weak-point, like email, that's something possible. I recall some quip about M$ disrupting the supply of 3.5" floppies to spoil the OS/2 launch.

  • by MemoryDragon (544441) on Friday February 19, 2010 @12:28PM (#31200468)

    Googles interest is to route as much traffic as possible to their services so that they can earn the ad revenues, now this application basically performed inbox searches without redirecting the user to gmail (where google would get the money from the ad revenues)
    So they simply killed it because it did not bring them any revenues!

    • by BrokenHalo (565198) on Friday February 19, 2010 @12:40PM (#31200622)
      Googles interest is to route as much traffic as possible to their services so that they can earn the ad revenues

      That was what immediately occurred to me too. Google isn't being *very* evil, it's just trying to maintain its income base. I don't have (or even particularly want) an iPhone, but given Apple's various ways of pursuing its business model, evilness seems to mean different things to different people.

      Just to be clear, I'm not particularly bashing Apple (I'm typing this on a MacBook I inherited from my wife when she upgraded to a more recent model), I'm just saying let's not be hypocrites.
    • by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Friday February 19, 2010 @12:43PM (#31200674)
      As I recall, there were quite a few commenters here that thought Apple was being a schmuck for killing google's phone app even though google's app replaced apple's phone app [simonblog.com] instead of installing itself side-by-side. Here, you've got google killing their competitors that are trying to mooch off their mail service. Sounds like pretty similar behavior to me on both apple and google's part since they are trying to stamp out a competitor who is getting a "free lunch" off their products.
      • by delinear (991444) on Friday February 19, 2010 @12:49PM (#31200748)
        Maybe because there's a big difference between "killing" and "giving a huge bag of money and a job and the potential to integrate the app into the google codebase", regardless of how the Register/Slashdot try and spin the story title?
        • Are you really trying to paint google, a company that did nearly $24 billion [google.com] in revenue last year as the underdog getting smeared by the big, bad apple? Seriously, what you're implying to me that X multi-megacorp. is the underdog because Y multi-megacorp refused to let X go and displace Y's native app on Y's own device. In any case, why don't you have any sympathy for apple's programmers who are being displaced by google's programmers going around writing all these apps? Think of the number of salaries i
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by chrb (1083577)

        Imagine a small town market place.

        Scenario 1: The owner and landlord of the market invites all traders to come and sell goods in his market. However, he also owns a fish store. When a trader selling fish turns up, he refuses to let this trader into the market place. The other traders become worried that, someday, the owner and landlord of the market may stop them from trading on the market, too.

        Scenario 2: A trader on the market sells a new type of hot dog. This hot dog is particularly tasty and quickly bec

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Friday February 19, 2010 @12:50PM (#31200758) Homepage Journal

      That's why they killed POP access, too!

      Oh, wait, no they didn't. [google.com]

      Slashdot should be embarrassed for all the FUD they've been posting. Apple is the new Microsoft, except for Apple fanboys, who hold Google as the new Microsoft.

      • by kjart (941720) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:49PM (#31201546)

        Slashdot should be embarrassed for all the FUD they've been posting. Apple is the new Microsoft, except for Apple fanboys, who hold Google as the new Microsoft.

        It never ceases to amaze me when people are surprised when giant corporations behave like giant corporations.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Crashspeeder (1468723)

        Slashdot should be embarrassed for all the FUD they've been posting.

        Agreed. You can also still search IMAP accounts, the only difference is it's slower than this app since the app itself downloaded copies to the phone while native search searches the server. This has nothing to do with ad revenue.

      • by e2d2 (115622) on Friday February 19, 2010 @02:34PM (#31202042)

        Slashdot should be embarrassed for all the FUD they've been posting

        You just summed up the last 10 years.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by killmenow (184444)
      This is my thought exactly. An app that lets you search through your GMail data without hitting Google's servers every time you search interferes with their core business of providing ads along with search results while monitoring users' searches to improve both search algorithms and ad delivery algorithms. If the app somehow reappears, you can bet even if it works off-line when you have no data connection, the search info will still be tracked and sent back to Google when connectivity is restored. And ads
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by idontgno (624372)

        [slashdot.org]

        Well, there may already a hole in that: IMAP. I don't EVER hit Gmail's HTTPS address. Thunderbird accesses the gmail box and does all searches internally.

        Of course, if an IMAP MUA uses the IMAP SEARCH command to search mailboxes, then GOOG's IMAP face can treat that input like it would a web-based search form entry, so if that's the case then their search-optimizing input overlord status is secure.

        But other than Google's own feature-promotion spam, I see no advertising.

    • by MoralHazard (447833) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:21PM (#31201188)

      So they simply killed it because it did not bring them any revenues!

      But has Google actually killed access methods to G*, in the past, that didn't directly bring it revenue?

        * Exhibit "A": IMAP for Gmail. Despite the lack of advertising revenue during IMAP sessions, Google provides free, quality IMAP service to all Gmail accounts.
        * Exhibit "B": Mobile clients for Gmail: As with IMAP, the mobile Gmail clients (Blackberry, etc.) don't display any advertising to the user during mobile sessions.

      In both the IMAP and mobile cases, Google actually spent time and money (engineering hours) building capacities that let people access Gmail with zero advertising. To the untrained idiot, this might see paradoxical: Why would Google spend money on things that don't directly generate revenue?

      Of course, if you ponder it for a hot five seconds, the answer is pretty obvious: Good IMAP and mobile options can increase user adoption of Gmail, generally, because the end user finds more to use. This means more people will integrate Gmail more deeply into their lives, and the overall increased Gmail usage could very well drive up absolute web UI page views. The alternatives help get me hooked on Gmail, but in the end I spend more time logging in through the web UI because I'm just using Gmail all that much more. In the end, Google gets more ad views, and revenue increases.

      There's a similar concept in retail called the "loss leader": You sell a popular item at below cost, and advertise the hell out of it, just to get people into your store. While they're in your store, they will are likely to buy other, non-sale (profit-making) items, too, since they're already there. Voila! Your revenue increases.

      So who do you think you are, calling these suspicions totally idiotic? Google has suddenly broken with its past policies regarding alternative, non-ad-viewing Gmail interfaces. If you've been trusting Google in the past, due to their general friendliness to end users, this apparent change of heart is kind of alienating.

    • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Friday February 19, 2010 @02:11PM (#31201820) Homepage Journal

      And by that logic, they should be killing off all 3rd party mail client POP and IMAP inbox access for everyone in 3... 2...

    • by neosake (655724)
      I can search my mail (gmail) in the iPhone mail app without seeing any google ads... how is that different from what reMail did?
  • by H0p313ss (811249) on Friday February 19, 2010 @12:30PM (#31200496)

    ... and bought the company.

    company founder Gabor Cselle, who will be returning to Google as a Product Manager on the Gmail team

    It is perfectly normal to pull the product temporarily to re-brand and redirect during an acquisition that is technically interesting but does not completely meet the company vision. Nothing to see here, move along.

    • by tool462 (677306) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:55PM (#31201636)

      No kidding. In related news, did you know that Delta bought Northwest Airlines, and now they're killing it off? Seriously. They're removing all the NWA planes, and replacing them with Delta planes. And soon you won't even be able to buy tickets on NWA, you'll have to buy them on Delta. It's more evil than Stalin and Hitler combined!

      Google bought the company (one guy and his app). The value for them is in the technology, not the reMail brand. They'll include the parts they like with the gmail service. The guy who created the app got a nice chunk of change from the purchase and a job at a company many would be excited to work for. This is capitalism in it's most basic form. A guy created something of value and was rewarded for it. If this qualifies as evil, you are in the wrong country.

      • by furby076 (1461805)
        Uhm, already you can't buy tickets on northwest. Two weeks ago I called Delta and their flights sucked (i have frequent flyer miles) and asked about any sister companies. They told me to go to northwests website. I went to northwests domain and it routed me to...yup you guessed it Delta. I was back in the same boat :)
    • by Joe Tie. (567096)
      Not only normal, as far as I know they've never deviated from that as their normal practice. Hell, grand central was closed to new registration for what, a year or two while they worked on it?
  • Does it really matter?

    I mean, aren't there other email options available to iPhone users (I'm honestly asking - I don't use an iPhone). And if there are other options, it's not like the GMail app offered much other than a better search - on the phone. Surely, someone will offer decent search for any iPhone email out there at some point, no?

    This has been said many times before: if you don't like a businesses practices, don't use them. Something else will ALWAYS spring up to meet demand.

  • by 0x537461746943 (781157) on Friday February 19, 2010 @12:41PM (#31200642)
    I downloaded the free iGmail specifically for the searching features. I use the regular iPhone mail app to read mail but it can not search in the body portion of the emails. If I need to do a search (For instance to see what I have bought through iTunes) I launch iGmail and us it's search feature. Apple really needs to think more seriously about their feature set. Full body searches is something that is very important for an email app.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19, 2010 @12:49PM (#31200750)

      Full body searches is something that is very important for an email app.

      I don't know why you like full body searches so much, but I consider them invasive and uncomfortable. But I guess if you like that sort of thing....

    • by darrylo (97569)

      I use the mobile gmail web interface in safari, as I find it much more useful than the Apple's minimally-featured mail app. Searching may not be instantaneous, but it's fast enough, and I don't need to waste precious iPhone storage.

      Sure, you need an internet connection, but that's basically true of Apple's app, too.

    • by pydev (1683904)

      Why don't you get a different phone, one that actually has a decent mail client?

  • I think now would be a great time to produce an app that does "lightning-fast" searches of GMail inboxes... That would be (not very) quick way of finding out whether Google bought reMail to integrate it, or to kill it.

    Hey, maybe I found the missing step 2:

    1. Build email searching app
    2. *** GET BOUGHT BY GOOGLE *** (darn, we have to buy ANOTHER one of these?)
    3. Profit!
    • That is what makes the speculation about "OMG, Google will buy all the devs in the App store!!!!" seem so transparently stupid.

      Producing an email application good enough that Google is interested in buying it for incorporation into some future scheme is a challenge. Producing unpolished(or even quite competent) "me too" clones of applications that Google has purchased in the past is fairly easy and the barriers to entry aren't all that high. If it became generally known that Google would buy anything, th
  • It is weird but nowadays is easy to realize that google ceased "not being evil" sometime back there in 2005~2006.
    Now they are just the new microsoft or another corporate giant .. buying whatever they can.. It's like a kid with too much money in their pockets:
    they almost stop coding.... they just buy!

    Remember google wave? blehg... google buzz? bleh...
    Even Google Chrome is not what people imagined it would be..
    Next big thing google will do (if they finally manage to pay enough) is buying facebook or tw
    • Now they are just the new microsoft or another corporate giant .. buying whatever they can.. It's like a kid with too much money in their pockets: they almost stop coding.... they just buy!

      I don't know how much coding Google still does or doesn't do these days, but...

      Shareholders want to see short term profits, and buying other companies is the way to achieve that. And you'll see this very same behavior from every publicly traded company that has cash available for other purchases.

    • by toriver (11308)

      It's more like they are redefining evil to suit their needs.

      "Provide no privacy" should be more fitting, what with the Buzz cock-up and all.

  • Profit (Score:5, Informative)

    by LtGordon (1421725) on Friday February 19, 2010 @12:47PM (#31200726)
    10 START COMPANY
    20 COMPETE WITH GOOGLE
    30 GET BOUGHT BY GOOGLE
    40 GOTO 10
  • Is the headline misleading?

    Has Google ever once just bought a competing product to shut it down?

    I suspect they will roll this into Gmail service, the the free Google iPhone app.

  • DUM dum DUM dum DA-DUM dum DA-DUM!

    DIM dim DIM dim DI-DUM dum DA-Daaaam!

    Him hum ha-him hum, ha-hum-ha hum --
      ha-him hum, ha-hum-ha hum...

    And so began the Imperial March of Google...

  • Or... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by asdf7890 (1518587) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:00PM (#31200878)

    They have effectively employed a Developer (or more than one if the company wasn't a one man band) for work on their mail related projects taking his existing work on a (popular?) mail related application as part of his CV. They were perhaps on the lookout for a developer with good experience in both mail protocols and UIs for mobile devices (I can see that skillset fitting in to their plans as I understand them). Said developer/company does not have time to maintain/support the iPhone app long term on top of new responsabilities in the new position with Google so decided to stop, and Google has not particular interest in keeping it going by passing it to another team either because the market for it is too small for them to care or it just isn't the direction they want to send a dev team in at the moment.

    There doesn't need to be any anti-Apple consideration here at all. Apple users need not worry: if there is a good market for such an application someone will step up to the bat and create one. In fact I predict many will turn up soon as people try follow in this fellow's footsteps - you just need to hope one of the new projects will be both good and long lived...

  • by adosch (1397357) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:06PM (#31200938)

    This is well into the big double-digit count of Google headlining or top subject matter in slashdot news stories in the last 5 days, with ranging topics from broadband internet backbone building to social network privacy with Buzz to energy buy-ins, now iPhone app buy-up monopolization. Unstoppable force, friends.

    I know Google has done extremely well diversifying themselves and has their fingers in anything, but no one treats them like monopolizers that Microsoft became.

    Hopefully reMail turned a good profit on this... and wasn't squeezed by the big corporation.

  • by pydev (1683904) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:06PM (#31200952)

    Companies like Google buy small companies mainly for the people. Think of it as a big hiring bonus.

    I suspect other than that, reMail simply didn't figure in any of their business plans.

  • by DogDude (805747) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:10PM (#31201006) Homepage
    DVD Shrink was arguably the best DVD copying software (freeware) out there until the developer was hired by Nero, one of the leading companies that made competing DVD copying software. Since their software was doing the same thing (albeit, for a price), there wasn't any technical information that could have been garnered by hiring the guy. The developer just stopped development on the software immediately, and hasn't updated it since.

    There's no reason to think that Google isn't doing the same thing.
  • by mysidia (191772) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:41PM (#31201432)

    reMail provided a capability similar to Gmail's search that worked with IMAP accounts and mail providers other than Gmail

    Since part of Gmail's competitive edge is good search technology, reMail was a substantial competitive threat.

    Now by buying and killing them, their search capability is no longer available on the mobile platform. iPhone users will have to use gmail and Google's built-in search instead of a third-party IMAP provider in order to get a decent search experience.

    Killing this competitor protects Google's monopoly on search, and on e-mail search in particular.

  • Does reMail have say some sort of patent.

    No doubt this is for the future.

    I say it is either to:

    A) Develop their own "App" to access Gmail over Android (or whatever Google phones are called then) and they want to use a technology or expertise developed by reMail

    or

    B) reMail has a patent, or Google will file for a patent using reMail technology, that will enable them to boot/restrict/make pay licence fees to Google any phone company that wishes to access Gmail.

  • The Google EZ-Plan to Do No Evil.

    1. Eliminate Evil Competition
    2. Soak up customers
    3. Be really nice to customers.
    4. Keep being nice to customers.
    5. After being well established as a monopoly, keep being nice to customers.
    6. Rule world as benevolent ultraconglomerate.
    7. Wait until after complete world domination to turn evil.

  • Perhaps Google is just planning to buy up all the iPhone developers, one at a time, until Android is the only game in town,

    Woohoo, finally!!! "I'M SPARTACUS!!"

  • Gmail already does lightning-fast full-text searches of your e-mail.

    And it can download IMAP mail and import it into your Gmail account.

  • Why bother with the embrace, extend part - costs time and money; go straight to extinguish and save money in the longer term.

  • Proprietary... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bert64 (520050) <bert AT slashdot DOT firenzee DOT com> on Friday February 19, 2010 @02:53PM (#31202246) Homepage

    This is why many people don't like closed source proprietary software...
    The original vendor of this software has stopped developing or distributing it, this would be bad enough and effectively turn existing versions into abandonware... But given Apple's distribution model, this software is now effectively completely defunct. What happens to all the people who paid for the non free version?

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