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You are here: Home / Mobile Tech / BlackBerry CEO Seeks App Neutrality
Crafty or Crazy? BlackBerry CEO Wants 'App Neutrality'
Crafty or Crazy? BlackBerry CEO Wants 'App Neutrality'
By Jennifer LeClaire / CRM Daily Like this on Facebook Tweet this Link thison Linkedin Link this on Google Plus
BlackBerry CEO John Chen is asking President Obama, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and various congressional committee members to apply the Net neutrality concept to mobile apps. The move would essentially force companies to provide apps for all platforms.

"Neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory Internet," Chen said in a lengthy post on the Inside BlackBerry blog. "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's post brought critics out of the woodwork.

"As a BlackBerry app developer, I think this is a terrible idea," said Brian Knapp, leaving a comment on the blog. "You get developers to build for you by having a compelling platform, not by trying to force them to build for your platform."

"Enforced content/app neutrality is a terrible idea," said commenter Alastair Houghton. "There are all kinds of reasons why developers might choose not to support BlackBerry phones, and mandating that they do (whether themselves or via a third-party) is an onerous restriction that will dissuade people from developing software or services in the first place."

Risky Business

Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, said developers go where the volume is -- but this tends to support dominant companies and put smaller ones at a huge disadvantage.

"Let's put Blackberry aside and look at Apple, but not iOS but MacOS. It is still a really small player in the PC world, largely because the volume of Macs keeps lots of business developers from putting the same effort into Mac apps as they would Windows," Enderle told us. "Linux just doesn't get great apps, for instance. Granted it isn't exactly user-friendly either, but even if it was it likely couldn't get to critical mass."

Finally, Enderle said, Microsoft has actually created a decent mobile platform but faces the same problem Apple does on PCs -- the company doesn't have the volume to get the apps, and without the apps you can't get to the volume. As Enderle sees it, the only way to get around this is to pivot the market like Apple did with the iPhone and iPad. That, of course, is incredibly risky because the market may not want to pivot.

State-Mandated Neutrality

"Pivoting is where you convince people you are unique and desirable so they flock to you and whatever apps you have are good enough," Enderle said. "If there were a state-mandated app platform, then the operating systems would have to support it and smaller companies could better compete in existing markets."

Unfortunately, Enderle said, states aren't really set up to do something like this, in part, because they tend to lag significantly in technology. That said, Enderle noted that Canada (where BlackBerry is based) could mandate a form of app neutrality to help BlackBerry, and Korea could do the same to help Samsung because both firms are seen as important to their nations.

"I actually think this is better for the industry because once-dominant companies tend to sit on the market and cost-reduce their products as Microsoft did with IE 6 and IBM did with the mainframe in the '80s," Enderle said. 'Microsoft lost its dominance and IBM almost went out of business, where if the market had remained more competitive both firms likely would have remained more focused on improving their offerings and not reducing costs and better avoided these outcomes."

Tell Us What You Think


Posted: 2015-02-05 @ 12:21pm PT
The FCC chairman's plan for Title II will apply to all ISPs and make them public utilities -- wireless rules to follow so a foregone conclusion is that that apps are next.

Posted: 2015-02-04 @ 9:50am PT
It's stupid and discriminatory. Users of BlackBerry devices face this all the time.

Yep. I agree.

Paul S:
Posted: 2015-02-03 @ 7:08pm PT
I think most commentators on this subject missed the first half of John's argument, which is that current rules on wireless access are already adequate. And that there is no need to move away from it.

I suspect John's motivation for that is that BlackBerry runs its own network in the form of NOCs and doesn't want to have it subject to rules that would hamper his company's ability to make money and by extension discriminate traffic.

His argument about app neutrality is probably to emphasize the point that if his company's NOC is to be subjected to net neutrality then app or information providers such as Apple should be also, in the interest of fairness.

Unfortunately, if that was John's intention, his article probably got lost in translation, so to speak!

Adam V.:
Posted: 2015-02-03 @ 12:08pm PT
I think it's unlikely that J. Chen thinks this will happen, but that it's a great way to keep them in the current news.

Justin J:
Posted: 2015-02-02 @ 10:22am PT
@Goutham Roshan: "App Neutrality" won't make people equal. It would be very nice to have all apps available on all platforms, but that's much easier said than done. You can't expect every app developer to be able to make every app for every platform.

The bottom line is that developers will make apps available for platforms where they see the most financial potential. Unfortunately, it's a chicken-and-egg situation, meaning it's hard for a platform to become popular and lucrative without enough good apps.

On the upside, though, if developers see potential to bring their apps to a newer or less popular platform, they can get an earlier mover advantage by being one of the first to market. We have to let capitalism rule and not try to mandate everything. The good old ways of supply and demand tend to work out just fine in the end.

Goutham Roshan:
Posted: 2015-02-02 @ 10:13am PT
App Neutrality has to become real because this will make people equal...

Posted: 2015-01-27 @ 2:00pm PT
I welcome competition and I am so glad that someone dared speak out about the future of technology.

Chen speaks also for hundreds of millions of people who are getting tired of this duopoly. As a consumer, I want choices and welcome competition and technological diversity

I'm not a "fruit" or a "berry" worshipper, but I understand what an OS is and I understand where the QNX stands.

Posted: 2015-01-27 @ 1:24pm PT
QNX will be the OS of the future. Many developers realize that. These who develop for BB10 are preparing for the future.

Posted: 2015-01-27 @ 6:04am PT
Why not skip all this app development nonsense and get Congress to mandate that they earn a profit? Or better yet, require all people to buy a BlackBerry, this way they are required to own it regardless of the inferior software.

Posted: 2015-01-26 @ 11:33am PT
This has to do with what Google is trying to achieve through ART. Google wants to close down Android to only use ART applications from Play Store. John Chen has just raised the issue to try and stop Google from locking down Android apps. The Android OS has to be open due to its license and the OHA, but the apps that run on it can be anything. Google is going to lock it down to stop Microsoft and Amazon and BlackBerry from using Android apps as an open platform. Just wait, you'll see.

Anson Wilson:
Posted: 2015-01-26 @ 10:20am PT
This company screwed everyone from the workers to the stockholders to the customers. Now they expect to demand that 3rd party developers make APPS for their stuff because some how it's not fair? BS. No one has the right to tell me I have to make my APPS available on multiple devices. I make the decision who I will write APPS for and that decision is made based on my ROI $$$. The last thing I will tolerate is more Government in my business. BlackBerry founders / management screwed people. How about we mandate jail time for CEOs & Founders that fiddle while Rome burns!

Mitch Kehn:
Posted: 2015-01-26 @ 9:47am PT
If all businesses followed the example of the mobile tech business, we would have highways that only certain cars would be allowed to drive on and dvd and blu ray players that only certain movies would play on. What is the point of having mobile payments that only iPhone 6 can use? App developers could code to common standards just as Web developers do now, allowing an app to run on any compliant platform. I think this is what Chen is suggesting.

Posted: 2015-01-26 @ 8:22am PT
I support BlackBerry but that doesn't mean I am for mandated content-neutrality. It will then become a question of where to draw the line because there are several mobile platforms out there with very little user bases.

On the other hand, I think John Chen knows very well how his comments would be received. I think he has a different agenda with this whole content-neutrality talk.

Mutayyab Ahmed:
Posted: 2015-01-24 @ 1:44pm PT
Seriously, I think it's pretty unfair and unjust with BlackBerry, especially why the app makers don't make versions for BlackBerry. I don't think that BlackBerry threatens them but other companies do not want BlackBerry to rise up. Seriously speaking -- really, really unfair and unjustified to the BlackBerry users. Everyone has different tastes. So, if there are people who love to have BlackBerry, but the shortage of apps is causing them not to buy it, of if they buy it, then to criticize -- really sucks. Support blackberry. And BlackBerry, one comment for you. You also need to improve.

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