BlackBerry has jumped into the debate on net neutrality the way that BlackBerry does just about everything these days: ass-backwards. Last night, BlackBerry CEO John Chen wrote a blog post that contorted the standard definition of net neutrality into a complicated pretzel of crazy, insisting that Apple and Netflix are violating the principle of net neutrality by… not making iMessage and Netflix available for BlackBerry customers.
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. 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 criticised at the carrier level.
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.
This proposal, first of all, has nothing to do with net neutrality. Chen is saying that app developers should be compelled to develop apps for every mobile platform. Never mind that creating an app for one operating system is time-consuming and expensive, which is why many apps debut on only iOS or Android.
Insisting that app creators make versions of their products for every single operating system is comparable to demanding that a baker supply bread to EVERY bakery in town. Uh, no. The baker can sell bread to whoever he wants. Maybe he doesn’t want to sell bread to some nasty old bakery in Ontario full of rats. He doesn’t have to! And that’s not unfair and it’s not a violation of a principle of neutrality. That is how business works, whether it’s bread-related or in mobile tech.
Look, it’d be great if every app was available for every platform. It would also be great if the convenience store by my house sold Flamin’ Hot Cheetos™, because they are delicious. But not everything is available at every possible outlet that it could potentially be available. Heaven is not for real.
Now, BlackBerry is a Canadian company, so I’d say that maybe things are just a lil different up north and they’re confused. But I live in Toronto and every regular Canadian person I’ve talked to about net neutrality grasps the concept and knows it doesn’t mean that tech companies should be forced to develop apps for a dying platform. This is either wilfully ignorant or a truly gung-ho troll.