In this user’s experience, BlackBerry and Gmail seem to get on well. Really well, in fact. Maybe even a little too well. Can I smell some kind of alliance? I know we’re still supposed to be all excited about iPhone right now, but it has me thinking.
For those who are unfamiliar, a gang of clever Canadians called RIM make this bunch of mobile handsets called BlackBerry, that are very very hot on mobile email. They do that fancy “push” email thing whereby incoming mail is dumped onto the handset automatically (like how SMS is) with out you having to go and actively check your inbox. Gmail is Google’s web-based email service.
When you get a BlackBerry, there’s a bunch of ways to hook it up to your mailbox. There’s a thing called BES which bolts onto Exchange Server (and some others) and pushes all your emails, contacts, tasks and calendar items out to your mobile. There’s another thing called BIS which is kind of a hosted service which goes into your mailbox via POP or IMAP, grabs your mail, and throws it out to you over the air that way.
Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages, depending on the email setup in question. BES more or less requires your own mail server (running one of three solutions), so is fairly good for big business. For those of us who just have normal, regular email accounts, BIS is ideal… but it only does email (not your contacts, tasks, calendar etc).
I have a BlackBerry Curve as my work phone, which is hooked up via BIS to my work email account and also my personal mailbox, which is with Gmail. I’ve noticed that BIS comes knocking at work on a schedule – it turns up via IMAP every 15 minutes looking for new mail. Gmail, however, is different. It’s practically instant. More or less as soon as inbound mail arrives, my BlackBerry is bouncing and beeping its way around the table.
Does this mean all those clever spods at RIM and Google are in cahoots? Does BIS have some super-sexy mega-fast way of getting mail out of Gmail? It’s certainly doing something more impressive than just turning up four times an hour.
If that’s the case – if they’ve opened up a dialogue – can we expect increasingly clever/useful stuff from this partnership? Will Gmail/BIS users be able to sync contacts as well as emails in the not too distant future? Maybe Google Calendar too?
Personally, I’d love RIM to think about getting BES to talk to mail servers (collaboration suites?) in a less mysterious way. I’ve never spoken to a sysadmin about BES without them rolling their eyes. It bolts into Exchange via MAPI, and presumably into the other solutions in equally specific parasitic ways, but this means it can only talk to these three solutions. Sure, that pretty much ties up the market share, but for those of us in the SME market who find Exchange to be unfavourable in the good old trouble-to-worth ratio, it’d be nice to be able to plug BES into whatever crazy-ass mail/PIM solution we’re running. My choice of crazy-ass solution, as it turns out, supports things like WebDAV and iCal, so if BES were modular, I could quite happily write the relevant lines to get it talking with BES, and then I could sync all my contacts etc. just like those who choose to work with Exchange.
Anyhow, if RIM and Google really are talking, this may be a moot point soon enough.