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BlackBerry gets full-fledged Google Apps support

Software due in July will let Google's e-mail and calendar service dovetail with BlackBerry devices. Less alienation will mean more business use, Google hopes.

In a bid to make its online Google Apps more appealing to corporate customers, Google plans to release software in July to make its e-mail and calendar services work well on BlackBerry mobile phones.

Google Apps' e-mail and calendar services now get along better with BlackBerry phones.
Google Apps' e-mail and calendar services now get along better with BlackBerry phones. Google

Today, corporate users can set up BlackBerry devices to check mail from Google's Gmail service, a part of Google Apps, but it works only in relatively rudimentary form. With a new product called--brace yourself--Google Apps Connector for Blackberry Enterprise Server, the company is adding much tighter integration with Research in Motion's BlackBerry technology.

Specifically, it synchronizes mail so a message marked as read on the BlackBerry will show that way on Gmail, and vice-versa, said Raju Gulabani, project management director for Google Apps. It also means people will be able to star, archive, and file messages in folders in either location.

In addition, people's BlackBerrys will be able to tap into corporate contact information, letting people use the device to retrieve e-mail addresses or phone numbers from the company directory. And calendar entries will be pushed to the device--though people won't be able to accept event invitations with the device until an update to the software is issued later this year, he said.

"In terms of the features we're delivering, (it's) not just nice to have, it's pretty critical," Gulabani said, because it means Google Apps users will get the full BlackBerry experience.

One reason for the change is because Google wants to make it easier for companies to switch from their own e-mail, contacts, and calendar systems--Microsoft Exchange being the most prominent example--to the Google-hosted replacement. "We want to make that change easier, and make it easier to deploy Google apps. One way is by giving them existing interfaces," so they don't have to use Google-specific software such as the downloadable Gmail for Mobile application for BlackBerry devices, he said.

Google Apps consists of a number of online services: e-mail, calendar, and the Google Docs suite for word processing, spreadsheets, forms, and presentations. Google Apps Standard Edition is free but limited to customers with 50 or fewer accounts; the Premier Edition costs $50 per user per year but doesn't have those limits. Google also offers a free version for customers in education that doesn't have any user limits.

The BlackBerry connector software comes free with the Premier or Education editions, Gulabani said.