It’s no secret that if you acquire a BlackBerry or Windows Phone, a lot of your favourite apps won’t be there – well at least officially. However, while Microsoft is pushing hard in trying to court companies to build a Windows Phone app, BlackBerry is taking a different route. The company is asking the US Congress to force developers to make apps on BlackBerry.
In a blog post written by its CEO John Chen, BlackBerry is asking Congress to widen what net neutrality means to include applications. Under its proposed definition, it would force companies like Apple and Google to produce versions of the app with similar functionality on other platforms, like Windows Phone and BlackBerry.
“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. Netflix, which has forcefully advocated for carrier neutrality, has discriminated against BlackBerry customers by refusing to make its streaming movie service available to them,” Chen wrote.
“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.”
It seems like a good idea in theory, but BlackBerry’s plan will no doubt add a lot of burden to companies and developers – especially smaller players, who would have to create and support a wide variety of versions of the same app or risk falling foul to this regulation. As TechCrunch’s Catherine Shu points out, this could even put some smaller development groups out of business.
BlackBerry’s attempt to allow for application neutrality is also unnecessary. The latest version of the BlackBerry OS supports Android applications and has access to Amazon Appstore. In fact, the Amazon Appstore has Netflix – which makes its entire argument about “discrimination” invalid. Sure, it is not a native application, but at least it’s there for BlackBerry users to access the streaming service.
It was BlackBerry’s choice to bring Android apps into their ecosystem – despite the fact that it would mean no one would develop native apps. Why develop a BlackBerry app when you could build an Android app for two ecosystems? Now they have to live with that decision.