Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Nov. 9 said it is giving up the ghost on its Gmail App for BlackBerry to focus on improving Gmail in the mobile Web browser.
Google launched Gmail for BlackBerry as a native application users install on their Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry smartphones. As of Nov. 22, the company will cease supporting the app, which means users won’t be able to download it.
Existing Gmail for BlackBerry users will be able to continue using the app as installed on their phones, but there won’t be any more updates or maintenance help if the app breaks down. Google Apps for Business, Government and Education customers using Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry Enterprise Server will continue to be supported.
“Over this past year, we’ve focused efforts on building a great Gmail experience in the mobile browser and will continue investing in this area,” Google said in a statement, adding that BlackBerry users can continue to access Gmail through the mobile Web app here in their BlackBerry Web browser.
The news comes as RIM is hemorrhaging smartphone market share worldwide as consumers and businesses increasingly choose Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and handsets based on Google’s Android operating system.
According to the latest IDC statistics, RIM has lost 5 percentage points of global market share from the third quarter 2010 through the third quarter this year, dropping from 15 percent to 10 percent.
Delays of new phones and service outages aren’t helping either; the company just experienced its second outage in as many months. In October, BlackBerry service crashed worldwide for three days. On Nov. 9, the service went wonky again, with users in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa struggling to get email and browse the Web.
And now Google’s slap in the face to BlackBerry, via Gmail. Industry analyst Jack Gold said that while Google’s move is not good news for RIM, he wasn’t sure how many BlackBerry users use the native Gmail app.
“I suspect there will be some BB users who see this negatively,” Gold told eWEEK. “But frankly, most business users connect to corporate mail via BES [BlackBerry Enterprise Server] (and companies usually turn off the ability to connect to personal email), and many consumers probably don’t use the enhanced Gmail feature anyway (instead just using the BIS/email client). So this may not be such a big thing.”
Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart said the move is par for the course for Google, but bad news for RIM, adding:
“The BlackBerry brand is nearly synonymous with mobile email, but its non-BES email capabilities have long been just average. RIM needs to take this opportunity to build best-in-class support for Gmail directly into the native BlackBerry email client.”