Desperate times call for desperate measures. But today’s letter from BlackBerry CEO John Chen sent to US lawmakers around net neutrality defies all common logic. In the letter Chen proposes that US does not look at net neutrality just from the perspective of carriers and ISPs but extend it to app developers as well. Also Read - Blackberry 5G smartphone 2021 comeback confirmed again, to bring physical keyboards
The concept of net neutrality typically relates to ensuring that carriers don’t throttle Internet access speeds to certain services or applications nor do they create faster “highways” for other services that pay the carrier a fee. The idea is to have the same level playing field for everyone. Also Read - Blackberry is coming back once more, will debut in 2021 with a flagship keyboard phone
In the US, the concept is also being discussed to apply to cellular carriers and how they should give users the control what they can do with their smartphones, including the ability to change networks. Also Read - TCL will not design, manufacture or sell BlackBerry smartphones from August 31
However, BlackBerry is now proposing that the same concept be applied to app developers too, who shouldn’t be allowed to favor developing an app or service for a particular smartphone platform.
Here’s an excerpt from Chen’s letter:
Key to BlackBerry’s turnaround has been a strategy of application and content neutrality. For example, we opened up our proprietary BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service in 2013, making it available for download on our competitors’ devices. Tens of millions of iPhone and Android customers around the world have since downloaded BBM and are enjoying the service free of charge. Last year we introduced our secure BES12 mobile device management software, once again designed to manage not just BlackBerry phones but also available for enterprises and government agencies whose employees use iPhone and Android devices.
Then he calls out BlackBerry’s rivals for not doing the same and discriminating against its products and 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. 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.
That’s pretty rich, Mr Chen. Now let’s get a reality check. BlackBerry had for ever used BBM and BES as a differentiating feature to make enterprises and individual consumers buy into BlackBerry’s ecosystem than its rivals. It is only when BlackBerry failed to innovate and lost out to Apple and Android, that it opened up BBM to other platforms. It had nothing to do with app neutrality. BlackBerry was forced to do so in order to stay relevant as a smartphone and services vendor – something that holds true even to this day.
According to IDC, BlackBerry had less than one percent of smartphone market share in the US at the end of the third quarter in 2014. I repeat, less than one percent.
What BlackBerry is forgetting is that just launching an app or service on a platform isn’t enough. App developers and service providers need to constantly provide updates, ensure users have a good experience, fix bugs and security patches, and eventually provide a service. And all that takes money. It might not make sense for many companies to invest in resources to target a platform that is adding less than one percent of market share every quarter.
This is a pathetic attempt by BlackBerry to try and divert the attention from net neutrality to cover up for its failure to excite consumers, enterprises and app/service providers.