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Of course Apple could’ve made iMessage for Android but it didn’t

By Prakhar Khanna April 9, 2021, 4:38 am
iMessage

The legal battle between Apple and Epic Games is still going on. While the court of public opinion has already pressed Apple and Google to reduce marketplace fees for developers, new information from court filings suggests that Apple had thoughts about making iMessage available for Android but it didn’t, which is obvious since Apple likes maintaining a number of proprietary products and services to keep its users on its ecosystem.

As Android Police reports, Epic Games has filed a brief containing excerpts that demonstrate Apple’s executive team making an intentional decision to limit iMessage to Apple’s own platforms. Obviously, there is no technical limitation preventing Apple from developing iMessage for Android. It was more of a business decision than a technical one. 

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58. Apple has recognized the power that iMessage has to attract and keep users within its ecosystem.

a. As early as 2013, Apple decided not to develop a version of iMessage for the Android OS. (Cue Dep. 92:22-93:1.)

b. Mr. Cue testified that Apple “could have made a version on Android that worked with iOS” such that there would “have been cross-compatibility with the iOS platform so that users of both platforms would have been able to exchange messages with one another seamlessly”. (Cue Dep. 92:5-9; 92:11-16.)

c. However, 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”. (PX407, at ‘122.)

d. Phil Schiller, an Apple executive in charge of the App Store, agreed that Apple should not offer iMessage on Android devices. (Cue Dep. 92:18-93:1.)

e. In 2016, when a former Apple employee commented that “the #1 most difficult [reason] to leave the Apple universe app is iMessage . . . iMessage amounts to serious lock-in” to the Apple ecosystem, Mr. Schiller commented that “moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us, this email illustrates why”. (PX416, at ‘610; Cue Dep. 114:14-115:2.)

As you can read from the statements, Eddy Cue, SVP of Internet Software and Services acknowledges that Apple had an idea of developing iMessage for Android back in 2013. However, Craig Federighi (SVP of Software Engineering) and Phil Schiller (SVP of Worldwide Marketing) expressed concerns. They said that it would hurt Apple if they make their service available for Android since it would remove the obstacle for people between platforms. Plus, Message is the biggest factor in keeping people in Apple’s ecosystem.

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