Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry Connects Mobile E-Mail to Google's Cloud

REVIEW: Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry Enterprise Server ties together BlackBerry devices and management infrastructure with Google's for-pay e-mail services. However, in the BlackBerry's native e-mail application, Google can't offer all the services and features users have come to expect from Gmail.

The Google App Connector for BlackBerry Enterprise Server makes Google's e-mail services a little more compelling for businesses, allowing customers to keep using their fully managed mobile e-mail platform with the search giant's cloud-based e-mail solution.

Tying together BlackBerry devices and management infrastructure with Google's for-pay e-mail services, the Connector enables push e-mail, global address lists and full synchronization of Google e-mail and contacts--but only partial calendar sync--from the cloud to the corresponding native applications on a company's managed BlackBerry mobile devices.

However, in the BlackBerry's native e-mail application, Google can't offer all the services and features users have come to expect from Gmail. As such, Google expects that its own mobile applications for BlackBerry--like its Gmail client--will play a complementary role on the mobile device going forward.

Google representatives expect that the Google Apps Connector, which is in beta now, will be available as a free add-on to customers of Google Apps Premier and Education Editions in July.

Mobile administrators would install the Google Apps Connector for BES on their existing BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) for Microsoft Exchange. Google has tested the Connector with BES for Exchange 4.16. The Connector essentially fools the BES software into thinking it is talking to Exchange Server when it is actually communicating with Google's e-mail servers using OAuth and Google's sync and data protocols.

BES with the Google Apps Connector may not scale to the level that mobile e-mail administrators have grown accustomed to with their current e-mail infrastructure. Google says it supports only 250 users per BES server due to the architecture and memory footprint of the Connector, although that number may grow down road as Google has more time to evaluate performance characteristics. For now, however, additional BES servers must be added to support more than 250 users.

Google officials claim that other than a few initial setup steps, the bulk of the administrative work to configure Google App accounts or provision Google software (like Google Maps or Google Mobile App) to BlackBerry devices is done via RIM's familiar BlackBerry Manager.

To try out an end user's experience with the Connector, Google provided me with a BlackBerry Curve 8900 preconfigured to work with a test Google Apps domain and BES server--both of which Google configured and maintained. As such, I was not able to validate Google's statements about the server-side installation, policy management or device configuration in this test.