In another step towards becoming a viable alternative to enterprise software like Microsoft Exchange, Google today announced the Google Apps Connector for BES.
The product is still being tested, but Google says that the new software integrates directly into Blackberry Enterprise Servers. Once installed, your BES will communicate directly with Gmail, Google Calendar and Contacts -- providing a seamless experience for people already using their blackberry with an Exchange server.
The new service has the following features:
- Messages sent to your Gmail inbox are pushed to your BlackBerry within 60 seconds.
- Emails read/deleted on your BlackBerry are marked as read/deleted in Gmail, and vice-versa.
- Synchronize BlackBerry folders with labels in Gmail.
- Search for email addresses and phone numbers of other users on your company domain.
- View your Google Calendar schedule on your native BlackBerry application, with one-way synchronization from Google Calendar to your BlackBerry device.
- Contacts in Gmail are automatically synchronized with your BlackBerry address book.
When our company used to use Google Apps, there were a few complaints that cropped up often enough to make switching to Exchange worth it:
1) It's down, I'm not getting my email, fix it! Of course, fixing it is not something the administrator can do -- it's even almost impossible to "look into it". Questions to Google are usually answered with silence, or an annoying auto-response that doesn't get you any further -- and definitely doesn't make your users happy. Unfortunately, this has not been resolved yet.
2) I'm not getting my email in my Outlook! The POP and SMTP service for Gmail is flaky -- or at least it was. I haven't used it for a while, so I can't say if there are still issues, but back then, there were plenty. Not only did you have to put up with connectivity issues, spam stayed on the server making false positives tough to track down. Getting users to switch from Outlook to a web-based email client is harder than you would think.
3) I'm not getting my email on my Blackberry! To get mail delivered to a Blackberry back then, you had to do some hacky forwarding rules in Gmail. Due to the work-around, there were often times that email took forever to come through, or simply wasn't delivered. It's come a long way since then, and this new Blackberry Connector makes switching to Gmail almost seamless.
What Google needs now is a piece of software that puts Microsoft Outlook to shame. If Google can make a browser like Chome, they can surely make an email/calendar/etc client like Outlook. Of course, the client should be a communication center that incorporates your Google Apps email, your personal Gmail, Other POP/IMAP/Exchange email accounts, Twitter, RSS feeds, etc. What do you think?