Blackberry CEO: The Government Should Force Companies To Make Apps For Blackberry Phones

The head of Blackberry thinks he can save his company by getting the government to force others to make content for Blackberry phones

Blackberry Phones

The head of Blackberry thinks he’s found the solution to his company’s problems, get the government to force companies to make apps for Blackberry phones:

At this point, BlackBerry and Windows Phone fans are probably used to having a much smaller selection of apps than their counterparts on iOS and Android smartphones. After all, diehard devotees of BlackBerry and Windows Phone, which both lag dramatically behind Android and iOS in terms of market share, still bought their smartphones in spite of their limited app ecosystems.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen, however, thinks this is unfair. In fact, he thinks it is so “discriminatory” that he wants legislators to widen the definition of net neutrality to include “application neutrality.”

In other words, if a company makes an app for iOS and Android, they must also make a version for BlackBerry and all other operating systems.

In a blog post on BlackBerry’s site that was adapted from a letter Chen sent to several members of Congress, Chen wrote “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.”

In the blog post, Chen points to his company’s decision to make Blackberry Instant Messenger, a messaging app that was previously only available to Blackberry users, available as an app for Apple and Android phones:

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.

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.

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.

The flaw in Chen’s argument, of course, is that his company made the decision to make BIM available across multiple platforms because it was in their business interests to do so. A multi-platform version of BIM would give them a good selling point for existing Blackberry users who may be undecided between upgrading to a new Blackberry or joining so many other people in making the jump to Apple or Android, a phenomenon which has pretty much destroyed Blackberry’s business model over the past several years. Apple, on the other hand, has no reason to make its iMessage service open to anyone outside the Apple universe and is unlikely to do so any time soon. Similarly, Netflix has obviously made the decision that it is not worth whatever investment would be necessary to create an app for the Blackberry platform. Indeed, one presumes that if there were a huge demand for such an app that Netflix, or any other large media company, would be more than happy to create it. For years now, though, we’ve seen that Blackberry is a dying platform, thanks in no small part to bad business decisions made by Chen and others who have been running the company and were slow to respond to both the iPhone and the rise of the consumer smartphone market in the wake of its introduction.  Now that they are paying the consequences for those failures, Chen wants the government to force application makers to try to help rescue the company by forcing them to make applications that there may not even be a market for. It really is quite absurd.

As a legal matter, I’m not even sure where Chen thinks the government would get the authority to do what he wants. This isn’t an antitrust issue since applications themselves are made by dozens of companies, all of whom compete against each other for users across the Android and Apple platforms. Obviously, if these companies thought that they could gain an advantage over their competitors by making versions of their applications available for Blackberry, they’d make such an application. The fact that they don’t strikes me as an indication that it isn’t worth the investment to them. That’s a valid business decision, not a violation of the antitrust laws or any kind of unfair restraint of trade  If Chen wants a bigger selection of applications for the users of his company’s phones, then he needs to find a way to sell more phones. An increased user base, with signs that base will be growing rather than shrinking as it has been in the past several years, would give application developers a reason to consider making Blackberry compatible versions of their apps. If Chen can’t do that, then his company will fail and the market will adapt. The fact, though, that he thinks the government should force developers to do this indicates that he doesn’t think he can save the company. In that case, perhaps it’s best that Blackberry finally be left to die on the vine.

This is an utterly absurd idea and Chen should be laughed out of the business community for even suggesting it.

FILED UNDER: General
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. The Monster says:

    Even if there were legal authority to do it, how would you enforce it?

    XYZ corporation makes its Foobar app for iOS and its Foobaz app for Android. Since they don’t make the same app for both, the requirement is not triggered, even though the two apps are feature-identical, and even can share data across platforms.

    OK, so you close that loophole.
    Foobar for iOS, Foobaz for Android now each have one minor feature the other does not have, while Foobarf for Blackberry and Windows Phone each have ONE feature: They display a link to the XYZ website, which happens to be a feature available in both Foobar and Foobaz as well.

  2. anjin-san says:

    Should be doable. Bending over for Canadian corporations seems to be a priority for the new GOP majority on the hill.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    Doesn’t sound like something the US government would consider. However, last I heard, Blackberry is headquartered in Ontario. Maybe he has a chance of getting the Canadian government to do something. Although what help it would be to Blackberry escapes me. Sounds like desperately grasping at straws – or looking for scape goats.

    But aren’t they still fairly big in Europe?

  4. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Under the precedent set by NFIB v. Sebelius, all the government has to do is say that it affects interstate commerce, invoke the Necessary And Proper clause, and compel the companies to act. Just put a tax on apps that are not Blackberry compatible.

  5. Netflix, which has forcefully advocated for carrier neutrality, has discriminated against BlackBerry customers by refusing to make its streaming movie service available to them.

    It should be noted that Netflix already provided streaming over the web via HTML 5, so the only reason Blackberry users can’t use Netflix from their phone is that RIM has failed to update its browser for the last six years.

  6. humanoid.panda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: That is actually true, and had always true under both the Commerce Clause, and the anti-trust body of law.

    The only issue here is that there is no reason whatsoever to do it. It’s almost like markets that work well and markets that have inherently problematic features are not the same exact thing!

  7. JWH says:

    I got mugged the other day. Dude knocked me upside the head and knocked me out. When I woke up, my wallet was gone and somebody had stuff three Blackberries in my pockets.

  8. grumpy realist says:

    This usually only works when you can work “National Security” into the squawking.

    (A little hard for a Canadian company to pull off vis-a-vis the US Military, me thinks.)

  9. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @JWH: I got mugged the other day. Dude knocked me upside the head and knocked me out. When I woke up, my wallet was gone and somebody had stuff three Blackberries in my pockets.

    You got off lucky. They could have left you with Washington Nationals tickets.

  10. CJ says:

    @gVOR08:

    It wouldn’t help BlackBerry.it would kill them.

    If all apps are made available to all platforms an open-source platform would end up dominating.

    Just imagine a better more open non-controlled Android that has every app available from Windows, Linux, iOS, Android, etc…….

    And that would give hardware manufacturers an even lower cost of entry…. ubuntu netbooks all over again but this time with all the apps = death to BB10.

  11. Mikey says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Hey, now, the Nats are about to have the strongest pitching rotation in baseball.

    Although the King’s ransom they paid for Scherzer…ouch. I hope he’s worth it.

  12. al-Ameda says:

    Do I understand this article correctly?

    The CEO of a CANADIAN company wants our (AMERICAN) government to force companies to make apps for Blackberry phones?

    Okey doke …

  13. C. Clavin says:

    @anjin-san:
    The silly pipeline project directly benefits the Koch’s…so taking US citizens property and giving it to a Canadian corporation makes sense.
    If the Koch’s stood to benefit it would have already happened.
    Note that they are spending a billion dollars to buy politicians in the coming election cycle.

  14. grumpy realist says:

    @al-Ameda: Yes. Isn’t it marvelous how all free-markety corporations are until they need a favor from some government somewhere?

    Maybe he can sell it to the Europeans.

  15. anjin-san says:

    @Mikey:

    The Nats? I think the Giants are still scraping what’s left of them off the bottom of their cleats.

  16. Slugger says:

    Somebody should tell this guy that using the regulatory power of the government to advantage a private entity is entirely unheard of in America.

  17. michael reynolds says:

    By the way, the Kurds are announcing that Kobani is ISIS-free.

    The 10 foot tall, unstoppable beast that was going to devour the entire middle-east unless we rushed a million men and tanks into yet another war. . . just got its ass kicked by a handful of Kurds of both genders.

    So, that would suggest ISIS is contained, and a wee bit degraded. Exactly as President Obama said he would do and what the neocons and the ancient army generals and that creep Lindsay Graham said was impossible.

    Our coalition remains strong, ISIS is hemmed in, American generals now forecast a move by Iraq to retake Mosul in spring.

  18. anjin-san says:

    @michael reynolds:

    By the way, the Kurds are announcing that Kobani is ISIS-free.

    But, but, but…. Fox said we were all going to die because of the weakling Obama…

  19. michael reynolds says:

    @anjin-san:

    It just irritates the sh-t out of me that once again we get all these so-called experts harrumphing on Fox and CNN and here at OTB about our, ‘lack of strategy.’ What’s the strategy, what’s he doing, he’s in over his head, we’re all gonna die, quack quack quack quack.

    Hey, geniuses: just because you lack the wit to understand it, doesn’t mean it ain’t there.

    I am losing what little patience I had left with people like the headliners here at OTB, who write 50 damn posts ranting about Obamacare or ISIS or the economy, and when they are shown to be wrong, wrong, wrong cannot manage a lousy paragraph to examine just how and why they were wrong.

    That is basic intellectual integrity, James and Doug and Dave. When you’re wrong, man-up, take your beating, show us that you are capable of learning. Radio silence on your errors is not courage.

  20. wr says:

    @anjin-san: “But, but, but…. Fox said we were all going to die because of the weakling Obama…”

    Yes, but that was from Ebola.

    Funny, I seem to remember some regular posters ranting on here about how Obama had doomed us because of both these threats. Seems strange they’re so silent on the subjects now.

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @wr:

    If you get a chance maybe you could ask them about the job-killing nature of Obamacare. And the way young, healthy people wouldn’t sign up. And if they did, they wouldn’t pay. And the brilliance of Vladimir Putin. And how GM would be Government Motors and go out of business. Blah blah blah blah blah, and all of it wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

    The only thing anyone’s gotten right is that Libya has turned into a huge mess. That’s 1.

    Oh, and right-wing darling Scott Walker just came out for a path to citizenship. Why? Because it’s freaking inevitable. Duh. And Mitt Romney has suddenly discovered he supports Occupy because, wait for it. . . inequality is an actual problem. Duh. And Jeb now accepts anthropogenic global warming. Duh.

  22. Mikey says:

    @anjin-san: I’m looking at the FUTURE, man, the FUTURE…

    Actually, as a native of the Detroit area I am a Tigers fan, but the Nats picking up Scherzer has increased my interest in my adopted hometown team a great deal.

  23. JKB says:

    I believe that blog post is known as a very strong sell signal. The CEO of Blackberry has shown he and the company have no ideas on how to remain viable, regardless of whether they have government-mandated apps.

  24. Franklin says:

    @Mikey: Tigers fan here. Scherzer is good, but not THAT good.

  25. Mikey says:

    @Franklin: I don’t know if he’s $210 million good, but put him in with Strasburg,Zimmerman, Fister, and Gonzalez, and it’s Katie bar the door (to borrow from another great Detroit sports guy).

  26. bill says:

    @al-Ameda: well there’s more money south of the border- why not try? my co. gave me a bb last year, most unused phone i ever had. not like they’d allow me to stream movies and such on their dime…..

  27. JWH says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Actually, the Nats are pretty good these days. Now, if it had been Redskins tickets …

  28. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    I suppose that there might be an argument for such a rule if cell phones, in general, and smartphones, in particular, were a utility instead of expensive toys for aging hipsters and higher income X/Y/Z/Millennials who stroke their perception of their importance by imagining that they NEED to have access to the internet 24/7. Unfortunately, option B is the better vision of the problem.

  29. Moosebreath says:

    @Mikey:

    “but put him in with Strasburg,Zimmerman, Fister, and Gonzalez, and it’s Katie bar the door”

    Yes, almost as good as the Phillies were a few years ago with Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Oswalt. And they got bounced in the first round of the playoffs. Playoffs are always a crapshoot in every sport.

  30. Jack says:

    Next thing you know, individual citizens will demand other citizens pay for their birth control. Oh, wait…

  31. jd says:

    This is an utterly absurd idea and Chen should be laughed out of the business community for even suggesting it.

    The only absurd thing about this is that he forgot to include the checks with his letters to Congress. Then he could have joined the ranks of the other big guys who enjoy rent-seeking legislation.

  32. Mikey says:

    @Moosebreath: Yeah, but my initial comment wasn’t about the playoffs, just pointing out a pocket full of Nats tickets wouldn’t be such a bad thing…we’ll see if the best starting rotation in baseball equates to playoff success soon enough.

    And of course Nats tickets are certainly better than tickets for the local football team that needs a name change.

  33. al-Ameda says:

    @Jack:

    Next thing you know, individual citizens will demand other citizens pay for their birth control. Oh, wait…

    …. and men will have other citizens, other insured people, pay for their Viagra

  34. stonetools says:

    @Mikey:

    You gotta believe! this is the Nat’s breakthrough year! (throws salt over shoulder in order to avoid jinxing the team).
    Would be nice to have a winning sports team in DC for the first time in years (or is it decades?)

  35. gVOR08 says:

    @jd: Do we know he didn’t send checks? Just because he’s Canadian doesn’t man he doesn’t understand US customs.

  36. T says:

    @stonetools:

    a winning sports team in DC

    @Mikey:

    And of course Nats tickets are certainly better than tickets for the local football team that needs a name change.

    This is the problem with DC sports fans. They have an AWESOME team in the wizards right in front of their faces and all everyone wants to talk about is the skins, nats and to a lesser degree the capitals which I don’t understand. DC was never and will never be a hockey town. I wish Ted would sell and move them to someplace like Halifax or Saskatoon. Just get rid of the Crapitals so I dont have to see anymore of that “rock the red” shit.

    This wizards team is totally different than it was from just a few years ago. No more gilbert arenas bringing guns to the locker room, no more swaggy p playing point guard and averaging 1.1 assist per night. No more Javale Mcgee and andray blatche.

    instead you got guys like Gortat (who is a hero in poland) flying military widows and their families to America for a dream vacation and John Wall tearing up on national television talking about a young girl with cancer who he had befriended in the last stages of her life.

    Go to a Wizards game. Chinatown is not a terrible scary place and there are tons of good bars and restaurants around the phone booth.

    This Wizards team is only going to get better too with Kevin Durant coming home in free agency after next season.

  37. Mikey says:

    @T: Basketball isn’t my thing. It’s just never captured my interest. I’ll occasionally watch college, if it’s the Spartans or the Hokies.

    I am, however, a huge hockey fan, and I do like going to Chinatown and the Verizon Center when the Red Wings come to town to play the Caps. Although I wish the Caps would start sucking again so I could get the tickets cheaper.

  38. grumpy realist says:

    @JKB: You didn’t realize until now that Blackberry is a dead duck?

    Wow.

    I bet you held onto your J.C. Penny and Sears stocks as well.

  39. anjin-san says:
  40. @michael reynolds:

    By the way, the Kurds are announcing that Kobani is ISIS-free.

    Have they renamed it Kurd Kobani yet?

  41. michael reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    I cannot believe it took me all day to get that.

  42. @michael reynolds:

    The pun does work a bit better with the alternate “Chobane” transliteration some sites are using.