Google Buys Sparrow and… No, Actually That’s The Entire Thing

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Google Buys Sparrow and… No, Actually That's The Entire Thing Listen to this article

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Google bought Sparrow, the Mac and iOS mail app that had gained a loyal and growing following. I used Sparrow at first launch and was finding myself turning to it with increasing frequency on my Mac. I even went back to using it on my iPhone the other day.

Now Google has purchased the company. Go to download the app and you will see all the enhancements planned for it in the future.

Oh. Wait.

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Yes, that’s right, Google is killing off Sparrow. Here’s why I’m a bit peeved. I used Sparrow for Mac in Beta. I purchased the iOS app. I purchased the Mac app. And now, in one quick move, the apps are dead. Sure they will continue to work, for now, but the promised push notification for iOS will never come. Nor will any other enhancements. It truly proves buyer beware. When companies like Sparrow/Google pull this, or Microsoft/Nokia with Windows Phone 8.0 (see our upcoming Gear Chat on the subject) it shows a total disregard for customers. And yes, it does make me less likely to use their products in the future.

So here is a great way to prepare for the upcoming changes AND show how excited you are for the Sparrow team.

UPDATE: Rene Ritchie has an excellent and principled piece over on his site iMore. (Read it!) As is usually the case, Renee argues his position with a depth and clarity rarely found in the blogosphere these days. At one point he writes,

The crux of this argument is that Sparrow doesn’t owe users anything. Users paid, got the version of the app they paid for, the transaction was one-time and completed. And that users have no right to complain now.

The first few points are completely accurate. The last one, that users have no right to complain, is flabbergasting. (Yes, as someone who worked in software marketing for years, my gasts are literally flabbered.)

Certainly there’s a segment of the user base that is outrageously entitled. There are those who believe that they shouldn’t have to pay for software, even though they themselves get paid for their work, or who run beta operating systems or jailbreak and then leave negative reviews for apps they themselves broke, or that once they buy one version of an app, they’re forever owed all future versions, for free. All of which is nonsense.

However, there’s also a segment of the developer community that’s just as outrageously entitled. That believe their success is detached from their user base. That they can act anyway they like, and that any negative reaction by their user base should be dismissed at best, attacked at worst. All of which is also nonsense.

Both beliefs do a disservice to the developer-user relationship, a relationship that can be powerfully beneficial for all parties involved.

It is a great post and well worth the read. There’s just one problem with his ultimate conclusion, Sparrow is not the best example for his argument. Not by a long shot. It isn’t that the developers OWE anything to those who purchased the software, they don’t. They are in business and their goal is to make money. (Reportedly somewhat less than $25M in this case.) Good for them. They offered a product and people purchased the product. Transaction done.

There is, however, one big problem with the immediate announcement that, upon acquisition by Google they would cease any further enhancements to the app… THEIR OWN WORDS. On their blog they wrote the following

What’s up on Push?

Thanks to your amazing support, we feel confident that Apple might revise its position on the Push API. We’ll submit a first version of Sparrow 1.2 including it. This might delay Sparrow 1.2 validation but we’re already working with some partners to include Push in future versions of Sparrow without needing Apple clearance.

Push is coming. With or without Apple.

They were clear. They were unambiguous. They promised push email in iOS. No doubt some people purchased the app based on that promise and now that promise is dead along with all future advancements. At a MINIMUM they owe anyone who purchased the app after that blog post a refund.

It is that simple. And a reminder to developers to be careful what they promise… and to consumers to NEVER make a  purchase based on anything other than the current product.

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.