Google Inc. will stop offering its popular Gmail application for BlackBerrys later this month, delivering another blow to the device’s maker Research in Motion Ltd., which is trying to prevent defections to handsets that operate on software provided by Apple Inc. and Google.
Starting on Nov. 22, Google will no longer offer or support a Gmail app for Blackberry users, though BlackBerry users who already have the Gmail application installed on their phones can continue to use the service.
Google will instead focus on “building a great Gmail experience in the mobile browser,” the company said in a statement on its website Tuesday.
In a statement, RIM played down this development.
“Since 2009, RIM has incorporated native support for Gmail in BlackBerry [operating system] 5.0 and above, which means that a separate Gmail app is not required,” the statement said. “The large majority of users who access Gmail on their BlackBerry smart phone already rely on the native support (provided through BlackBerry Internet Service) rather than the separate Gmail app.”
The development comes as RIM deals with product launch delays, a plunging stock price and a rapidly decreasing share of the key U.S. smartphone market.
RIM’s share of the U.S. smartphone market had fallen to 11.6% as of the end of June, according to research firm IDC, behind Google’s Android-powered phones and the Apple iPhone. Five years ago, RIM had 48% of the U.S. market.
After an embarrassing service outage last month left millions of BlackBerry users without access to email, many analysts worried that BlackBerry users would begin migrating to Apple and Android devices at an even faster clip.
RIM said Wednesday that it was investigation reports of fresh delays for BlackBerry users in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa, but did not provide further details.
Google’s decision to end support for Gmail on BlackBerrys comes as the Internet giant increasingly focuses on a key RIM rival: Apple.
Earlier this month, Google unveiled a Gmail app for Apple’s iOS operating system, which powers the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. But the app was hobbled soon after its release on Nov. 2 by a bug associated with its notifications feature. Google apologized and pulled the app for repairs.
Google’s Gmail ranks among the most popular Web-based email services, and the company has said the service has around 200 million users. According to data from comScore Inc., the number of unique visitors to Gmail rose 31% in October compared with the same month last year, reaching 59.6 million. The number of visitors to Yahoo Inc.’s email service, meanwhile, fell 1% to 93.5 million, while visitors to Microsoft Corp.’s email service fell 3% to 44.5 million, according to the comScore data.
In a statement posted online, Google said that while Gmail users on the BlackBerry will be able to continue consulting Google’s guide for troubleshooting in the app, the guide “will not be maintained or enhanced.”