In a response to the State of the Union speech in which President Obama outlined his stance on net neutrality, the CEO of Blackberry issued a blog posting describing his support for an open and non-discriminatory internet. Along with outlining free and open internet access, part of his argument also states that companies like Apple should be required to make services like iMessage non-proprietary and allow them to work on alternative platforms.
“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…This dynamic has created a two-tiered wireless broadband ecosystem, in which [iPhone] 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.”
In his argument, BlackBerry’s CEO puts more on the table, and brings into question whether Net Neutrality applies to all players on the Internet, and for all services being offered, instead of simply being a protection for end users.
In essence, BlackBerry is demanding access to Apple’s popular services so it can leverage them to sell more of its devices, a leverage Apple and others have spent many resources developing to give a unique experience for users, and sell their proprietary platforms. Despite this, there is a point made that iMessage users are required to interact using only Apple’s products, which in itself is a limitation.
With regards to similar services, Apple has included other platforms, allowing iPhones and iPads to be set up with non-Apple computers, and porting some iCloud services to Windows systems. However, should there be a requirement that all services and devices from Apple be made available for other platforms? While consumers might love the options, and this may lead to greater adoption of iMessage, it will undoubtedly affect how Apple advertises its products.
Would you like to see iMessage ported to work on other platforms, and would you continue to value Apple’s iPhones, iPads, and other devices in the same way if you could contact folks with Messages from another platform? Or is this even an aspect of the argument at hand? In most markets, players offer incentives (such as financial, or perhaps a benefit from a significant increase in user base) in order to lure cooperation from competitors, so while the intent and argument by BlackBerry is well placed, and deserves attention, it cannot be overlooked that this approach is somewhat of a demand for a lifeline.