By Sudarshana Banerjee
You have two weeks to get your Gmail affairs in order if you are on a Blackberry. The Mountain View behemoth has declared that it will end support for the installed native app – Gmail app for Blackberry. Google is ceasing development or updates on the Gmail app for BlackBerry, and is pulling the app out of the Blackberry app store as well. It will be business as usual for Google Apps customers using Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which will continue to be supported.
You can continue to use the Gmail app on your Blackberry if you have it already installed and are using it; but do not expect any hand holding from Google if you have a technical issue or two that needs straightening out. The app will also not be available for download after November 22 of this year.
So how are you going to check Gmail mails on the fly with your Blackberry? You have to fall back upon the good old browser. The Blackberry Gmail application used to run in the background, checking for new mail about every 20 minutes. That is a luxury you will have to start doing without. If you are using browser-based Gmail, you have to manually check for new emails in Gmail.
Lets read between the lines here. Google is telling us to either start using Google Apps for enterprise (an initiative Google has aggressively started promoting) or nudging us towards Android phones or iPhones (but Google would much rather you do not switch to iPhones, really). There are more Gmail users than Blackberry users at the moment (even though Google’s own Eric Schmidt has been seen using a Blackberry even recently), and checking for mail using browsers on your smartphones is so day-before-yesterday-ish. Everyone knows the Web is slowing down, and apps are taking over.
Does this seem like Google is trying to throttle competition? Yes, it does. But then, Google can argue that it costs resources to develop these apps, and these apps are free to the end-users, so why should Google be developing free apps to benefit users of a rival? Remember, not only does Google own Android, it owns Motorola too, and that’s a double handset whammy.
A lot of us, myself included, have taken the availability of Gmail apps on our phones as a kinda given. The next time we are out looking for a phone, will we consider or reconsider getting a Blackberry based on the vanishing Gmail app?
(Sudarshana Banerjee is consulting editor with techtaffy.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)