The company late today unveiled the Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which is now in beta and slated to be available in July.
The connector is designed to make it easier for people with BlackBerries to access hosted applications like Gmail, Google Calendar and Contacts.
The new tool also integrates features in the Google applications with built-in BlackBerry applications, allowing users to, for instance, receive Gmail messages via the BlackBerry smartphone’s built-in email client.
Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group Inc., called this a smart move for a company eager to bulk up its business presence.
“This is going to make it a lot easier for BlackBerry people to use Gmail accounts and Google calendar,” he said.
“I think this is a big market for Google. If they’re going to offer Gmail and other applications, it’s definitely in their best interests to make them run on as many devices as possible, and BlackBerry is a big one.
We know they want to get into the corporate market more and become sort of an enterprise replacement for Microsoft and Exchange. This gives them a more compelling story toward this end.”
Olds also said a lot of people will find it helpful to have their calendars automatically updated on their BlackBerrys when they’re updated on their computers, and vice versa. “This is just going to make it easier on people,” he said.
“That’s a handy thing. Anything you do in Google calendar gets into your BlackBerry, and your contacts will be synched as well. It’s just helpful.”
Raju Gulabani, a product management director at Google, noted in a blog post this afternoon that engineers have been working hard to make sure that using Google Apps on BlackBerries is an easy transition for corporate IT administrators.
“Admins are given full control of the solution and can continue to manage BlackBerry smartphones using BlackBerry Enterprise Server,” he wrote.
“Google Apps Connector installs on BlackBerry Enterprise Server, connecting it to the Google Apps cloud and synchronizing e-mail, calendar and contacts for all BlackBerry smartphone users.”
The Gmail outage earlier this year, followed by a phishing attack on Google Chat a day later had caused a great deal of speculation about the viability of such services in a corporate context.
Since then Google has taken several steps to position its hosted offerings to business users as dependable and easy-to-use.
For instance, Google has introduced its Google Apps Status Dashboard, which immediately alerts users to any problems with the hosted services.
The dashboard is designed to let users check on the current availability of the company’s various services, which include Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Docs, Google Sites and Google Video, said Tessa Prescott, a member of the Google Apps sales team, in a blog post.
“We made a commitment last year to increase transparency and communication with Google Apps customers in several ways,” wrote Prescott.
“We heard your feedback around the need for better communication when issues like [February’s] Gmail outage occur. The Google Apps Status Dashboard represents an additional layer of transparency that we believe will be particularly useful for our business users, and it’s also relevant to users of our consumer products.”
Industry observers have commented on how service disruptions and other issues with Google’s hosted apps could negatively affect the adoption of these tools by businesses.
“The problem with services like Gmail is that every outage is highlighted in the press, and rightfully so,” said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group Inc..
“The companies pitch these services as dependable and easy substitutes for higher-cost alternatives, but a widespread and long-lasting outage like this really hurts that claim. While some people might shrug off a failure like this, it can cause real hardships for some users and have an impact on their lives and businesses.”
Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at U.K.-based security firm Sophos PLC, said yesterday that February’s phishing attack, which was aimed at stealing Gmail usernames and passwords, spread through Gmail’s Google Talk instant messaging system.
Prescott noted in her blog that the new dashboard is available to users around the world to check for information on Google Apps availability.