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Make Apple bring iMessage to BlackBerry, BlackBerry boss says

Apps like iMessage or Netflix which only run on certain operating systems "must be prohibited from discriminating," BlackBerry CEO John Chen has said.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen says Apple's services should be made to run on other operating systems. CNET

Apple's iMessage platform shouldn't just work on Apple products, but should be available on all kinds of devices, the CEO of BlackBerry has said.

BlackBerry, which a decade ago was a smartphone pioneer with its email-capable handsets, has suffered a high-profile decline as phone shoppers opted instead for touchscreen mobiles from the likes of Apple, or those running Google's Android operating system. The ailing firm's troubles came to a head in the second half of 2013 -- a period that saw staggering losses and job cuts, followed by a move away from hardware towards software and services, under the guidance of new boss John Chen.

Chen isn't too happy about other companies' approach to software, however. "Unlike BlackBerry," Chen writes in a blog post, "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 application providers similarly offer service only to iPhone and Android users."

Chen's argument is tied to the debate over net neutrality, where advocates say that Internet providers shouldn't be allowed to prioritise Internet traffic to certain services. Chen says that laws should go further, suggesting that popular mobile apps shouldn't only be available to owners of certain gadgets, which is the case currently with plenty of apps.

"This dynamic," Chen continues, "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."

"Applications/content providers," Chen says, "must be prohibited from discriminating based on the customer's mobile operating system."

For Apple, however, its iMessage app, which lets owners of Apple products message each other for free, is one of the many offerings built to tempt shoppers into buying an iPhone, iPad or Mac. As such, Tim Cook and pals are unlikely to embrace the idea of sharing their handiwork with other platforms like BlackBerry.

Meanwhile, app-makers often cite fragmentation and development time issues as reasons why apps arrive on -- for instance -- Android before iOS, and would likely baulk at being forced to spend more time and money building versions of their apps for the relatively small number of people using other operating systems, such as BlackBerry or Windows Phone.

"Neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory internet," Chen writes.