reMail Purchase Heightens Google/Apple War

How did a tiny iPhone mail client vendor get caught up in this fight -- and what is the bigger picture of Google and Apple's seeming collision course?
Posted February 19, 2010

Andy Patrizio

reMail was one of many e-mail clients sold on the Apple App Store, at least until Wednesday. The mail client and its developer were purchased by search engine giant Google and promptly removed from the App Store.

The reMail client runs on both the iPhone and iPod Touch. It was very well-reviewed and popular. Among its appeals was that it let you store your entire e-mail account on your phone or iPod for quick searching.

Buying the company and promptly taking it out of circulation has struck bloggers and industry watchers as the latest step in an escalation of tensions and enmity between a search engine company and a consumer electronics company. On the surface, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) would seem like the last two companies to get in each other's faces, but that appears to be the way things are headed.

Google's move doesn't just hurt iPhone/iPod Touch users, notes Marshall Kirkpatrick, vice president of content development at ReadWriteWeb. It deprives Apple of a really great acquisition target as well.

"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 email 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," Marshall wrote.

A return to Google

The purchase is a homecoming for reMail founder Gabor Cselle, a Google veteran who worked on Gmail at one point during his tenure there. Cselle announced the news on his blog.

"Google and reMail have decided to discontinue reMail's iPhone application, and we have removed it from the App Store. reMail is an application on your phone. If you already have reMail, it will continue to work. We'll even provide support for you until the end of March, and we've enabled all paid reMail features for you," he wrote.

There were no details on future plans for the product. Cselle will return to Google as a product manager for Gmail.

Speculation is that reMail will re-emerge as an Android application. "That would be the logical thing to do," said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.

Bajarin said the battle between the two firms is centered around the smartphone, where Apple has taken a dominant position with the iPhone and where Google is growing fast with its Android operating system.

Just five years ago, the "three screens" theory – PC, phone, TV – had the PC as the center of the universe. Today it's become the smartphone. At the Mobile World Congress, Google's CEO Eric Schmidt told the audience during his keynote that the three most important elements of the Internet were computing power, interconnectivity and the cloud.

"The phone is where these three all interconnect and you need to get these three waves right if you want to win," he told the crowd.

"That's a radical change," Bajarin told "So in that context, everything needs to work with the cell phone one way or another. So I don't consider Google's move into the cell phone a hobby, I think it's central to their long term strategy. Microsoft is moving in that direction, too. There may be coopetition when it's mutually correct to do so, but realistically, Microsoft, Google and Apple are all on a massive collision course."

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: Google, Android, iPhone, iphone apps, reMail

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