Kills off Gmail App for BlackBerry while introducing one for iPhone and iPad.
When Google announced it would end support for the natively installed Gmail App for BlackBerry from November 22 in favour of using its web-based app I assumed it had decided against apps for mobile devices in general.
“We are ceasing development on the Gmail app for BlackBerry to focus on the mobile browser experience,” the vendor said in a support note.
Ever since the iPhone could run third-party apps there has been an argument over whether it’s best to have a native app for each mobile platform or a single web-based interface that could run on any device.
Google seemed to be siding with the latter camp – until I found out that six days before the BlackBerry app announcement Google had released a Gmail app for iOS (the operating system for the iPhone and iPad).
I asked Google whether the company was committing to web-based applications only given its decision to terminate the BlackBerry Gmail app. The response was a little oblique.
“Google’s committed to providing its users with the best possible experience across a wide array of mobile platforms. As these platforms evolve, so does our approach. In the case of Gmail, we have invested heavily in our mobile browser experience and will continue to do so, which is why we’re asking our Blackberry users to move to this interface,” a Google spokesman said.
Google gives the same advice to iOS users, at least until its iOS Gmail app is rereleased. The app was pulled after its release on November 2 when serious bugs were found by general users.
The iOS Gmail app “leverages all the work we’re doing for the mobile browser”, the spokesman said.
It’s hard not to read Google’s move as an attack on BlackBerry’s struggling manufacturer, RIM.
Given that the browser is the weakest aspect of many BlackBerry models, the fact that Google’s mobile web app has made strong improvement is little comfort. Google Apps users will surely hesitate before buying a BlackBerry given that Google has effectively decided to turn its back on the platform.
RIM is already rapidly losing market share and seems to have run out of steam. Soon we will be left with three main players who control the whole “stack” of cloud service, applications and devices; the Nokia-Microsoft partnership behind Windows 7 Mobile, Google and Android, and Apple with the iPhone and iPad.
If you’re thinking about buying a BlackBerry, think twice. A smartphone platform without cloud services – and without enough market share – will probably “evolve” right out of existence.