Think about that title for a moment. Take it in. John Chen — CEO of Blackberry — went on a little rant on the company’s blog this morning, and by the end of it all we’d learned that he essentially wants to make it illegal not to use Blackberry. That’s how crazy it sounds when you think about it, anyway.
What he actually said is that he wants Congress to extend the discussions going on about “net neutrality” into the world of software, noting that he believes the problem of enforcing an “open highway” for internet traffic can’t stop at the carrier level alone.
One example he gave was a big company like Netflix who makes apps for iOS and Android, but have yet to extend their wares to Blackberry (or other platforms).
Netflix might not necessarily be creating a “fast lane” for their service, but to hear Chen tell it Netflix effectively “discriminates” against users of certain platforms from using their service because they haven’t made an app for it:
Netflix, which has forcefully advocated for carrier neutrality, has discriminated against BlackBerry customers by refusing to make its streaming movie service available to them. Many other applications providers similarly offer service only to iPhone and Android users. This dynamic has created a two-tiered wireless broadband ecosystem, in which iPhone and Android users are able to access far more content and applications than customers using devices running other operating systems. These are precisely the sort of discriminatory practices that neutrality advocates have criticized at the carrier level.
His ultimate suggestion is that any mandates made to support open internet traffic should also apply to the services and goods that are delivered over that network. It’s not enough to say everyone deserves equal internet — he believes everyone deserves access to the same apps.
As nice as that would be (and as much as we would love to see that happen), it’s downright ridiculous to suggest to go as far as making laws and legislation to force developers to support your platform. You could liken that to a soda company making deliveries to a grocery store and using a city freeway as a route: the city mandates where and how you can access and drive on the freeway, but they can’t force you to sell your soda at every grocery store available on that route, or force grocery stores to play the opposite role and buy all the soda coming off the exit.
The beauty of an open market is that consumers vote with their wallets, and everyone is free to make their own decisions. Developers not making their apps available on Blackberry? Find a way to attract more users. Can’t attract more users? Make a platform that users actually want to use and improve your market share.
Ironic about all of this is that Blackberry is effectively throwing the towel in on an initiative they began a while ago, that initiative being to make an Android runtime for their platform. Their goal was to make it easy for developers to port their existing apps, which would in turn help bolster up their apps store (which worked quite well, actually) to attract more users. Those users would, in turn, flock to the platform, and that might entice some of those developers to make apps native to Blackberry instead of porting over sloppy seconds. Sounded solid, but it didn’t quite work out that way.
It’s natural for the Waterloo-planted CEO to feel slighted by developers wanting no part of his company’s wares — especially since they’ve made some of their stuff available for competing platforms — but this is not the way to go about changing that.
It’s his job to make people want to use and develop for Blackberry, not lawmakers’. It’s his job to improve Blackberry’s market share to make it a financially viable platform to support, not lawmakers’.
Take Nokia, for example. They didn’t run to the government when no one wanted to use Symbian or Meego: they sucked it up and decided to mingle with Windows (and even eventually went as far as using the very platform they swore they’d never use). That’s somewhat of a different scenario considering Nokia wasn’t solely responsible for making the platforms they chose to use, but you get the point.
Quite frankly even if Blackberry were to somehow find success in this endeavor and manage to get their case in front of Canadian and American lawmakers and it resulted in a golden age of apps for Blackberry, I wouldn’t want anything to do with them. It does nothing but show me that they don’t have a solid plan for thrusting themselves back into the spotlight of the smartphone world and are content with begging for a government bailout.
Would it suck to lose another competitor in the already tight mobile scene? Yes, but I’d sleep a lot better at night supporting companies which I know strive to create the best platform that their users want than one which rests its fate on a shameless handout.