A Blackberry CEO is speaking out on Net Neutrality — or rather, on an issue that isn’t mentioned in Net Neutrality, but that he thinks should be. As you may know if you own a mobile device, some apps are available only on some platforms, and according to Blackberry Chief John Chen, that’s discrimination, and shouldn’t be allowed. He’s calling on the Obama administration to make ‘app neutrality’ a part of Net Neutrality.
Chen names two specific companies with which he has a complaint. First, Netflix, which he says refuses to make an app available on Blackberry’s platform. He says Netflix is only one of many who “discriminate against Blackberry users” in this way. A much larger number of apps are available for Android and iOS platforms, which is a disadvantage to a customer with a Blackberry — or to a company trying to sell one.
His second chief complaint is with Apple. He says that Blackberry is enjoying a resurgence, in part due to his position of “app neutrality,” but that Apple isn’t reciprocating.
“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.”
Chen outlines these grievances in a blog post he says is adapted from a letter sent to House and Senate committees that handle commerce law, as well as to individual senators and representatives.
Geek, however, offers a different perspective.
“Another way to say ‘prohibited from discriminating’ in this case would be ‘forced to develop apps for all platforms, even those with market share that barely registers on most monthly charts.'”
The site also points out that many Blackberry users have installed Netflix via the Amazon appstore, and that, while Blackberry’s messaging service might be available on other platforms, many of the company’s apps are not.
Notably, Blackberry also did not seem to feel that it was discriminating against non-Blackberry users when they threatened Ryan Seacrest with a lawsuit for making a keyboard for other smartphones that was too similar to a Blackberry keypad.
There’s no doubt that there are Blackberry customers who would greatly appreciate access to iOS and Android apps, but still choose Blackberry for other reasons. Still, the idea that companies should be forced to develop additional versions of their apps in order to fit all platforms seems extreme. If Blackberry is to get its own Netflix app, the more likely path is for Blackberry owners — a large number of them — to let Netflix know they want it.
[photo credit: Yi Shiang