Google Apps users who have been using BlackBerry devices to connect with the service through a special Google Apps Connector will have to find alternative means in early 2015 when Google drops its support for the connector.
The coming change was announced in a March 5 post on the Google Apps Blog, which detailed how it will affect Google Apps users who are using BlackBerry devices running BlackBerry OS 7 or older that are connecting to Google Apps through BlackBerry Enterprise Server version 5.0.3.
"Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry Enterprise Server allows BlackBerry 7 OS and older devices to connect to Google Apps through the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES)," the post states. "However, BlackBerry no longer supports the version of BES that the Connector needs. The latest BlackBerry devices also do not require a BES. As a result, we're ending support for the Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry Enterprise Server on March 5, 2015."
By using the connector, enterprises could set up their Google Apps suite to integrate with BES, which allows employees to use built-in BlackBerry applications to access their Google Apps email, calendar and contacts.
That will change, however, after March 5, 2015, when users will have to connect to Google Apps with their BlackBerry devices in other ways, the post states. BlackBerry 10 OS users will be able to connect to Google Apps using established sync protocols like Google Sync or IMAP, CalDAV or CardDAV, the post states, while users of BlackBerry devices that are still running BlackBerry 7 OS or older versions will have to access Google Apps through mail.google.com and calendar.google.com on their Web browsers.
All editions of Google Apps for business, education and government will be affected by the change.
The move was certainly not unexpected, particularly because BlackBerry itself has been moving away from its older operating systems, Chris Silva, a mobile analyst with Gartner, told eWEEK in an email interview. BlackBerry will be releasing a new version of BES in the future that will for the first time support newer and older devices using the same server version, wrote Silva.
"Part of the driver for Google to end their support seems to be an acknowledgement that the Blackberry Enterprise Server version for which the connector is designed has itself been end-of-lifed by Blackberry," he wrote. "Newer, Blackberry 10 OS devices have the ability to sync with things like Gmail directly, negating a need for a specific connector."
The change makes sense for Google as well, said Silva, as the company adjusts its products and services to meet the needs of changing platforms for mobile devices. "This seems like a normal move for Google as they continue shifting development and support resources to new and more popular products as a means of keeping both their development and support organizations efficient," he said.
At the same time, said Silva, BlackBerry's shrinking market share among users is continuing. Gartner's research data is showing that "the majority of firms we survey in our CIO survey that have Blackberry [devices] have made or are in the process of making a migration to other mobile platforms from Blackberry, with iOS leading the pack of alternatives," he wrote.
BlackBerry got a new CEO, John Chen, in November 2013, just before the company's third-quarter earnings for 2013 were announced in December. For the quarter, BlackBerry lost $4.4 billion. The company launched its long-awaited BlackBerry 10 OS in early 2013 after months of delays, as part of its efforts to lure back enterprise users who have fled for Apple's iOS and Google's Android alternatives in recent years. For BlackBerry, the release of the new OS and devices couldn't come quickly enough as the beleaguered company has been rapidly losing market share to iOS and Android devices for some time. Part of the problem was that BlackBerry just didn't keep up with innovations that enterprise users wanted in their devices, which let Apple and Android eat the company's lunch.