Yahoo has snapped up privately-held email software company Stata Labs, which develops technology that allows users to quickly search through mail and attachments.

The move generated speculation that the internet powerhouse is gearing up to take on Google's Gmail webmail service, which features broad capabilities to search email messages.

The new acquisition, Stata, offered an email client called Bloomba, which allows users to manage and organise multiple email accounts, search through mail and even save searches as views. It was lauded by reviewers as being efficient and easy to use, but lacked a high profile and large development budget.

While Yahoo doesn't plan to continue offering the Bloomba product or its spam filter software SAproxy Pro, the acquisition will provide it with "technological expertise and strategic assets", according to a notice posted on Stata's website. Further details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Stata is the second email company Yahoo has purchased this year. In July it acquired email startup Oddpost, which offered a web-based email product with an interface that functioned like a desktop program, allowing users to organise and delete messages by dragging them into folders.

That Yahoo is ramping up its investments to gain greater email organising abilities comes as little surprise, according to Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg.

"It's becoming clear that the ability to do search is absolutely critical in this age of information overload," Gartenberg says. "Yahoo obviously wants to get into this market and offer its customers search capabilities."

The purchase also comes as Yahoo faces increasing competition from search giant Google. In addition to rolling out a beta of Gmail earlier this year, Google recently introduced a desktop search application that allows users to search for information in PC files, local email and instant messaging sessions.

While it is not clear whether Yahoo will also extend its search ambitions beyond email, integration of PC, web and email search is where the market is leading, according to Gartenberg. He adds, however, that the challenge is to make the integration seamless.