Make coders develop Blackberry apps, says firm's boss

Broken Blackberry phones Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Obliging app makers to develop software for Blackberry phones would be "ludicrous", say experts

App makers should be required to make software for Blackberry handsets, says the boss of the phone company.

In an open letter to members of the US Congress, John Chen said rivals should be obliged to make their widely used apps available on Blackberry handsets.

He said the other firms and developers were "discriminating" against Blackberry by not making the apps.

His comments drew criticism from experts, one of whom called his claims "ludicrous".

'Discriminatory practice'

In his letter, Mr Chen sought to expand the definition of "net neutrality" to encompass more than just the way data travels to peoples' homes.

Net neutrality is the principle that there should be no paid prioritisation for net traffic. This means no company should be able to gain a commercial advantage by paying ISPs to have its data reach people faster.

Mr Chen said the same should apply to apps on smartphones, so companies would be legally obliged to make versions of their programs equally available for all handsets. The current situation was discriminatory, said Mr Chen, because some app makers were not making versions of popular apps for many phones, including Blackberry devices.

As an example, he said, this "discrimination" meant Blackberry users did not have a version of Apple's iMessage or Netflix's streaming service available to them.

The actions of these discriminatory companies was creating a "two-tiered" system in which users of some devices had access to far more content and applications than others, he said.

"These are precisely the sort of discriminatory practices that neutrality advocates have criticised at the carrier level," wrote Mr Chen, adding that app makers should be "mandated" to cover Blackberry and other platforms too.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption App makers have to make hard commercial decisions about whom they develop for, say analysts

The letter has received widespread criticism in the technology world, with some saying Mr Chen's argument was "utterly warped".

Stuart Miles, founder of gadget news site Pocket-lint, said the call to oblige others to make apps for Blackberry was "ludicrous" and showed what little understanding Mr Chen had of the mobile world.

"He's asking someone that he does not pay, to work on their own time to develop something for his platform that might have the potential for making money but might well not," he said.

"If you have an enticing, exciting platform, that's when people will start developing for you," said Mr Miles.

Martin Garner, senior analyst at market research firm CCS Insight, said many developers had to make hard decisions about how to use their limited resources when developing apps.

"As wearables, connected cars and smart TVs come into the market, each with multiple operating systems, the number of versions they may need to produce is growing," he said.

Mr Garner also questioned how such app regulation would work, who would decide which developers were included and what platforms were covered.

"Adding regulations to force them to support other operating systems would not obviously improve the position," he said.

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