10:33 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman

What If Google Ignores BlackBerry 10?

Google's long-time support for RIM's BlackBerry platform seems to be waning. Will BlackBerry 10 be able to win back Android and iPhone users without mobile apps from Google?

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Google offers a single application to Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 platform: Google Search. A thorough examination of the Windows Phone Store shows nothing else officially developed by Google. There is no version of Google Maps for Windows Phone, nor is there Google+, Google Chrome, Google Drive, Google Music, Google Reader, Google Voice, nor even YouTube.

There are alternatives developed by third parties. For example, both HTC and Microsoft offer their own YouTube apps for Windows Phone devices. Plenty others hook into Google services in order to bring them to Windows Phone, but they aren't officially made by Google. Many of them offer compromised experiences at best.

This is, perhaps, one reason why Microsoft's Windows Phone platform has struggled against Android and iOS. Sure, you get your Gmail, Google Contacts, and Google Calendar on a Windows Phone device, or use the IE 10 browser to access Google+ and other Google services, but it's not the same without native apps. In fact, it is the biggest reason why I can't use Windows Phone as a daily driver. I'm too reliant on Google's apps and services, and I'd have to give many of them up (or deal with annoying workarounds) to make the switch full time.

[ Read Google Releases Gmail 2.0 For iOS. ]

On the other hand, Google supports its chief competitor, Apple's iPhone and iPad. Google offers users of Apple's mobile platform dedicated Gmail, Drive, Google+, Chrome, Search, Voice, YouTube, and other apps. For many iOS device users, these apps and services are essential.

If Google cut off all support for iOS tomorrow morning, I'd wager plenty of iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users would find themselves looking at Android-powered devices before lunch.

But what about RIM?

Recently, pointed out that Google's mobile apps for BlackBerry 7 have become difficult to find. In fact, the links needed to download Google apps to BlackBerry handsets are more or less buried, making them all but impossible to locate. Google has already ceased development work on stand-alone BlackBerry apps, such as its age-old Java Gmail app.

Further, recently noted a similar change in how Google treats Symbian. In fact, the AAS folks term Google's treatment of Symbian as hostile. They note, "The famous is now distinctly Symbian-hostile, with a 3MB or so content stash, all aimed at promoting Android and iOS software." As with the Crackberry folks, the AAS folks were able to find the links needed to download Google apps to their Symbian devices, but it took some digging.

Symbian and BlackBerry 7 are on their way out. Their day has come and gone. RIM is banking on Blackberry 10 to save its skin in 2013. Can RIM do that without Google's support?

Many former BlackBerry users have transitioned to Android smartphones or the iPhone. The bulk of them probably rely on Google services, whether for email, social networking, or whatever. Android, in particular, is a hub of all things Google. Naturally, BlackBerry 10 users will be able to get Gmail, Contacts, and Calendar support. That is a given. Will BlackBerry 10 get YouTube? What about Google+ or Google Voice? Will millions of consumers who've become accustomed to Google's services make the switch to a platform that doesn't support them? So far, Microsoft hasn't been that lucky. The worldwide share of Windows Phone, which has been in the market for more than two years, is still less than 5%.

Officially, there's been no word from either RIM or Google about what Google apps will be available to BlackBerry 10. RIM will struggle to win back customers, though, without at least a little help from its competitor. The question is, will Google step in or won't it?

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