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BlackBerry CEO Believes Apple and Others Should Be Forced to Make BlackBerry Apps

BlackBerry CEO Believes Apple and Others Should Be Forced to Make BlackBerry Apps
Sharing BlackBerry's perspective on the much-debated issue of 'net neutrality', CEO John Chen published an open letter to members of the US Congress suggesting that they should also take necessary steps to stop 'discriminatory practices' by app and content providers, apart from regulating neutrality for Internet service providers.

Chen said "BlackBerry is uniquely positioned to comment" on net neutrality, as it is a Canadian company that offers services in more than 150 countries and does business with 600 telecom carriers worldwide, apart from providing secure mobile communications platforms to world leaders.

The BlackBerry CEO added he feels there is widespread disagreement in defining the term 'net neutrality', and that it should not just encompass ISPs and telecom carriers, but application and content providers as well. While the BlackBerry's turnaround has been a strategy of application and content neutrality, Chen suggests that other players don't advocate the same. Developers are also only focused on Android and iOS, which is leading to a "two-tiered wireless broadband" ecosystem - and iPhone and Android users being able to access far more content and applications than other operating systems.

Chen went on to describe his own company's efforts at providing applications across platforms, using BlackBerry Messenger and its presence on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone apart from BlackBerry's operating systems as an example. Contrasting his company's principles, he gave Apple's iMessage service as an example of where an app/ service is locked to a particular platform.

"Unfortunately, not all content and applications providers have embraced openness and neutrality. Unlike BlackBerry, which allows iPhone users to download and use our BBM service, Apple does not allow BlackBerry or Android users to download Apple's iMessage messaging service," wrote Chen on official BlackBerry Blogs.

Not just app devlopers, Chen also commented on content provider Netflix, saying that even though the company has forcefully advocated for carrier neutrality, it discriminated against BlackBerry customers. Netflix refused to provide a streaming app for BlackBerry users, and Chen said there other service providers which similarly only offer content to iPhone and Android users.

"Therefore, neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory internet. All wireless broadband customers must have the ability to access any lawful applications and content they choose, and applications/content providers must be prohibited from discriminating based on the customer's mobile operating system," Chen concluded.

The BlackBerry CEO's letter discussed how net neutrality tries to curb two practices, blocking and locking, and he clearly references the second throughout - locking apps and services to certain platforms. However, it seems as if Chen is not considering some vital points in the argument, leading to him essentially equating neutrality with altruism.

Net neutrality is being looked to by regulators as a way to ensure end-users do not face any trouble accessing sites and services. By access here, we mean users are not blocked from the sites and services they wish to visit, or face difficulties (like throttling of speeds). This implies a passive role on the part of Internet service providers and telecom operators, where rather than make an effort to provide all access, these firms ensure that no sites or services are blocked or discriminated against.

Chen on the other hand is asking application developers and content providers to ensure their products are available on all platforms, and this implies time and money being spent to develop the services for other platforms, and a long-term investment to support the apps on those platforms. While his arguments may have some credence if referring to apps made by platform owners, such as Google or Apple, they certainly don't apply to independent, non-aligned developers and service providers, like Twitter and Netflix. Notably, Google in almost all cases offers official apps for its services on iOS platform as well, while this is arguably not true for Apple. Nonetheless, it is hardly fair to expect smaller developers to spend time and money on platforms that will not see a return on their investments.

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