Friday, April 9, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Why There’s No iMessage for Android

Tim Hardwick:

It’s no secret that Apple sees iMessage as a big enough selling point to keep the service exclusive to Apple devices, however new court filings submitted by Epic Games in its ongoing lawsuit with the company reveal just how Apple executives have rationalized their decision not to develop a version of iMessage for Android.

Ben Lovejoy:

It seems Epic did manage to track down Scott Forstall’s phone number and depose him, as the former iOS senior vice president is cited as the source of one piece of evidence presented.

In an agenda for a 2010 executive team meeting, Apple founder and late CEO Steve Jobs wrote that he wanted to “tie all of our products together, so [Apple] further lock[s] customers into [its] ecosystem” [Forstall]

Eddy Cue also talked about what Apple does “to get people hooked to the ecosystem,” and Epic also presents evidence that this is why Apple never offered iMessage on Android.

Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering and the executive in charge of iOS, feared that “iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones” […]

Schiller commented that “moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us.”

Nick Heer:

For some reason, this is being seen as a shocking admission.

John Gruber:

Apple first, users second, developers last — those are Apple’s priorities.

There are certainly reasons to believe that the exclusivity is good for Apple’s business, though it’s possible that if iMessage were cross-platform it would have become more dominant and that would have eventually accrued benefits to Apple.

But it’s a trade-off because this is definitely worse for Apple’s customers. The user experience and and photo/video quality are worse when exchanging text messages with Android-using friends and family. And they aren’t end-to-end encrypted. Selling more iPhones is more important than the privacy of those who already have iPhones.

Previously:

Update (2021-04-14): Dieter Bohn:

I’m less surprised by the fact that Apple executives are just openly worried that people would switch to Android if it has iMessage than I am at how much of these conversations are happening over email.

Anyway iMessage for Android is one of those forever pipe dreams but I guess the case could be make that iMessage could be a gateway service in the way the iPod was a gateway device?

Yeah a stretch. Here’s the only argument that’s ever made sense to me.

Dieter Bohn:

Every time I hear Tim Cook talk about privacy as a human right, I think about the biggest thing his company could do to help ensure that privacy: spread the ability for people to have conversations that are safe from government snooping across the world. And the largest, most impactful way Apple could do that is to release iMessage on Android.

Update (2021-05-07): Russell Brandom (via Hacker News, Nilay Patel, MacRumors):

Eight years later, it seems unlikely that iMessage will ever come to Android, but another passage in the deposition suggests Cue still isn’t entirely won over by Federighi’s case.

Patrick McGee:

Phil Schiller didn’t like the idea of iMessage for Android. Said it sounds like the failed ‘Safari on Windows strategy’.

Blunt response from SVP of software Eddy Cue, who reports directly to Cook:

2013: “The reason we lost Safari on Windows is the same reason we are losing Safari on Mac. We didn’t innovate or enhance Safari….We had an amazing start and then stopped innovating….

…Look at Chrome. They put out releases at least every month while we basically do it once a year.”

Previously:

10 Comments

They aren't end-to-end encrypted when backed up to iCloud, similar to how WhatsApp works.

@Not Yes, I have discussed that, but it’s still much more private than SMS.

>It seems Epic did manage to track down Scott Forstall’s phone number and depose him, as the former iOS senior vice president is cited as the source of one piece of evidence presented.

In an agenda for a 2010 executive team meeting, Apple founder and late CEO Steve Jobs wrote that he wanted to “tie all of our products together, so [Apple] further lock[s] customers into [its] ecosystem” [Forstall]

For me, Scott Forstall Testify is the biggest news.

"it’s possible that if iMessage were cross-platform it would have become more dominant and that would have eventually accrued benefits to Apple"

Yeah, this does seem shortsighted. The primary outcome this has had is that, depending on where you live, apps like WhatsApp have become the only way to communicate, regardless of platform, completely displacing platform-native messaging systems.

Apple, the solution is vert easy: just cut by half the price of your products. You can sell them even cheaper than Android ones, since you are the single manufacturer that sells more devices. Only Apple sells Apple devices. Android and Windows ones are sold by millions of manufacturers.

Commenters are using the term "lock-in" as if it were relevant to the discussion of Apple restricting developers or customers.

But it’s the kind of lock-in Disney+ has, if you’re a Star Wars or Marvel fan. All your friends are discussing the latest episodes, so you can’t cancel. Of course they’re not licensing that content. It’s very unfortunate for the competition, but hardly nefarious.

There are myriad various features, options and apps that exist only on one platform and maintained by platform owners as a benefit for users of that platform. They were created to make it better, is better done platform is a lock-in? In a way it is.
Is NTFS a lock-in? How about Google Play Store? Maybe Exchange Server is? Tons of features require Chrome browser, is it a lock-in too?
Yes, each vendor wants to make their ecosystem better and making key features available on competitor's ecosystem is at least a lower priority.

I do believe that if Apple would make iMessage and FaceTime cross platform it would eventually in long term bring more people to Apple, but it's their decision.
So many of their products and feature require so much attention, fixing, improving and updating, I'd rather they allocate their best people to that, not to iMessage for Android.

I think you guys are completely misunderstanding the meaning of the word "lock-in". It doesn't mean "this is better, therefore I don't want to switch away", it means "this has some effects outside of its immediate purpose which prevent me from switching away."

For example, preferring iCloud Calendar because it works well is not lock-in. Not being able to switch to another calendar provider because you can't export would, otoh, be an example of lock-in.

The argument people are making for why iMessage has a lock-in effect is not "iMessage is nice, therefore people don't want to switch". The argument (as I understand it - again, none of my friends have used iMessage in at least a decade) is more along the lines of "people use iMessage for group chats and such, and once you no longer have access to iMessage, you lose access to your friend groups, so you can either buy another iPhone, or not access your friends' group chats anymore."

That *is* a valid example of lock-in, where the way the system works causes an external factor preventing you from moving away from that system.

>Yeah, this does seem shortsighted. The primary outcome this has had is that, depending on where you live, apps like WhatsApp have become the only way to communicate, regardless of platform, completely displacing platform-native messaging systems.

That's nice for users, but to Gruber's point, what's in it for Apple? iTunes for Windows was a vehicle for iPod (and iTMS) sales. Apple Music for Android drives subscriptions. iMessage… is just iMessage. If they made it $5/yr, they could advertise it as a privacy/security alternative (what with Signal now going down the crypto drain), but they'd lose the current "got two Apple devices talking to each other? you automatically got iMessage" advantage.

>Apple, the solution is vert easy: just cut by half the price of your products. You can sell them even cheaper than Android ones, since you are the single manufacturer that sells more devices. Only Apple sells Apple devices. Android and Windows ones are sold by millions of manufacturers.

What problem does this solve?

>Is NTFS a lock-in? How about Google Play Store? Maybe Exchange Server is? Tons of features require Chrome browser, is it a lock-in too?

No. Lock-in requires a combination of products/services. You get one, and it ties you to another.

While it has some nice features, I don't think anyone bought Windows because of NTFS. Google Play Store qualifies in the sense that it's an argument not to get Huawei's phones, especially once you've bought a fair amount of apps through it that won't run (due to DRM) without it.

Exchange Server applies in the sense that, to replicate the features you're likely to use, you likely have to migrate both the client and the server, and users will be yelling at you because their pet feature/workflow is missing or has changed. Migrating the server is one thing, but you'd likely have to switch from Outlook to something else, which probably means you want to switch away from Office altogether, too, which opens a whole can of worms. Not to mention migrating the data, which may not even be possible in its entirety.

iMessage is an example of lock-in not because people like it, but because, on top of liking it, they use it as a reason to stick to iPhones.

>what's in it for Apple?

"Everybody uses iMessage, and it runs best on iOS."

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