BlackBerry CEO John Chen has a radical idea to revamp his flagging smartphone company - force all developers to make all their apps available for his company's smartphones.
In a blog post written in response to the on-going issue around Net Neutrality, Chen argues that that Apple should create a version of iMessage for BlackBerry, and that Netflix should also bring its streaming service to the 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. Netflix, which has forcefully advocated for carrier neutrality, has discriminated against BlackBerry customers by refusing to make its streaming movie service available to them.
While we can understand Chen's desire to have all the apps from all developers on his smartphones, the argument is flawed and to conflate this with the desire to have an open and free internet is confused at best.
Chen argues that the definition of net neutrality which is widely used today is flawed and should focus on more than just the carriers "who play only one role in the overall broadband internet ecosystem".
To make his point, Chen equates the internet to the railways of the 20th century:
BlackBerry believes policymakers should focus on more than just the carriers, who play only one role in the overall broadband internet ecosystem. The carriers are like the railways of the last century, building the tracks to carry traffic to all points throughout the country. But the railway cars travelling on those tracks are, in today's internet world, controlled not by the carriers but by content and applications providers. Therefore, if we are truly to have an open internet, policymakers should demand openness not just at the traffic/transport layer, but also at the content/applications layer of the ecosystem.
While Chen's metaphor about the railway tracks being like today's internet is apt, equating the railway cars to the apps and services we use on the internet is wrong.
To achieve Chen's goal of having all apps and services on all platforms, it would require developers to code their software for every single version of every single operating system around.
While Windows, OS X, Android and iOS and relatively mainstream, it would also mean supporting the likes of Windows Phone, Firefox OS, Chrome OS, the various flavours of Linux, Tizen, Ubuntu and the many, many other niche operating systems out there - including BlackBerry.
It sounds like Chen hasn't thought this argument through and simply wants the most popular apps available on BlackBerry so that he can sell more phones.
His closing argument neatly sums up his severely flawed perspective:
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.