Blackberry boss: Coders should be made to develop apps for our users

John Chen, executive chairman and CEO of the Canadian smartphone company, in an open letter to members of the US Congress,  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”.

Mr Chen said that companies should be legally obliged to make versions of their programs equally available for all handsets. The current situation was discriminatory, he said, 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.

App makers have to make hard commercial decisions about whom they develop for, say analysts.

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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