Google today announced it has acquired Jibe Mobile, a startup known as the “cloud communications company for mobile operators.” Put more succinctly, Jibe focused on helping carriers build support for various messaging features into their services. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

In fact, news of the acquisition was shoehorned in beside the announcement that Google is working to add Rich Communications Services (RCS), a new standard for carrier messaging, to Android. Indeed, the company described Jibe as “a leading provider of RCS services.”

Jibe will continue to help carriers deploy RCS to their users, but as part of Google. The two will work with the broader wireless industry (including mobile operators, device makers, and the rest of the Android ecosystem) to “create an even better messaging experience on Android.”

google_jibe

Here is how Google explains why implementing RCS is necessary:

SMS carrier messaging is used by billions of people every day and enables people to reach anyone around the world, regardless of their device, carrier, app or location. However, the features available in SMS haven’t kept up with modern messaging apps. RCS is a new standard for carrier messaging and brings many of the features that people now expect from mobile messaging, such as group chats, high res photos and more.

In other words, RCS will help texting become more like instant messaging. That’s already happening, but users need to have mobile data if they want more than simple SMS.

Jibe has raised $9.1 million to date. The most recent round, $8.3 million in December 2012, was meant to help the startup build rich communications (such as video chat), real-time games, and other innovations on mobile devices.

Update at 10:20 a.m. PDT: Shortly after publishing, Jibe Mobile’s homepage was updated with a letter from CEO Amir Sarhangi. Here it is in full.

As a good friend once told me, if you want to do something big, start with something small — a single, singular challenge you can lead, and rally others to support.

For Jibe — a company we founded in 2006 — that lesson came true today with the announcement that we’ve been acquired by Google. The big opportunity we saw at the start: to change the way people communicate using their mobile phones.

The “small” challenge we focused on: the future of messaging, the super simple mode for communication that’s favored by billions of people, all over the world.

What we learned

Like many other startups, Jibe challenged the traditional approach. And through conviction, customer champions, and a great team, we’re starting to see some changes in the industry. We began Jibe at a time when:

  • Internet growth had exploded
  • mobile was picking up steam
  • smartphones were just becoming popular
  • iPhone and Android had not yet been born

As the mobile world was opening up, we had a hunch that carriers had to become more competitive by becoming innovative. So we decided to start a company with the vision of bridging the newer world of Silicon Valley with the older world of telecommunications.

Together, with the entire industry, we are making our vision come true.

At first we focused on the fringes, thinking the most important problems had already been solved by the industry giants who had invested millions in IP communications. But we then realized that the world of mobile was moving quickly, and the industry had not been able to keep pace.

This journey was absolutely necessary for us to find our way, by bumping into a real problem which needed to be solved = messaging.

In 2010, we foresaw the future of messaging and invested heavily in Rich Communications Services (RCS), the new standard that was being positioned as the evolution of SMS. We then introduced the Jibe model to put carrier messaging in the cloud and flip the infrastructure business model upside down.

The first bite

Of course, convincing the first carrier to trust a small startup with their messaging — a core part of their business — was not easy. But once we did, we knew we were on to something and never looked back. At times we have been seen as mavericks as we try to balance the need to stay competitive by running ahead versus making sure we build industry consensus. But one could argue that this is exactly what the industry has needed. Our persistent position has gradually been vindicated, first by our customers — who in every way deserve credit for our success — and now by Google’s belief in and commitment to us. We promise to stay true to our roots, and keep building great products for our customers.

Thanks to all

I want to thank all our customers, directors/advisors, and investors/lenders for not only supporting but keeping us focused. They’ve been partners in this journey — not idle watchers on the sidelines — looking out for the best interests of the entire industry.

Finally, I want to thank the team at Jibe, not just for their brilliance, but for their toughness, their resilience, their loyalty — and, yes, of course, their focus on a thing that might have looked small, but was not so small after all.

We contacted Google for more information, but the company declined to comment further beyond the Android blog post and Sarhangi’s letter.

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