Epic Games’ trial against Apple is about to begin. Next Monday, May 3, the sessions will begin and as part of their preparation, several witnesses have already testified. Among them, Eddy Cue, who in one of them was asked about the reasons that led him to want bring iMessage to Android in 2013, as collected in MacRumors.
It is an email exchange that has come up again recently. But it is worth a closer look.
A version of iMessage for Android in 2013
Launched in 2011, iMessage became the standard messaging app since iOS 5. At that time, WhatsApp was already a success and Apple wanted to offer its own way of communicating between users on the block. It was clear that messaging apps were going to play a huge role in the new mobile platforms, as witnessed by Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp in 2014 for about $ 19.3 billion.
In 2013 there was an exchange between Eddy Cue and other Apple executives about iMessage. Let’s remember that Cue was responsible for the App Store and is currently responsible for the company’s services. In that exchange, he stated that:
We must bring iMessage to Android. I’ve had a couple of people researching it, but we should put more effort into it and make an official project.
Cue continues to talk about how Google already controls search, video, email and is growing with your browser (remember that it is 2013). The executive believes that with iMessage they could build the messaging standard in the industry. Mind you, I wasn’t sure there was a way to monetize it right now.
In a reply to the email, Craig Federighi, Apple’s chief software officer, responds to Cue that “I am concerned that iMessage on Android will simply remove an obstacle for iPhone families to give their children an Android.” Later in the conversation, Phil Schiller claims iMessage was created as a way to “add value to our iPhone users”.
Epic wants to use these conversations to show that Apple always seeks to harm the competition and the user with its vertical integration
In his testimony, Epic’s lawyers ask Cue if he believes that in his opinion, in the absence of an Android version of iMessage, he has created some kind of obstacle for families to give an Android device to his children. To which the executive responds “no, not at all.” The rest of the answers are hidden, as is often the case to avoid disclosing commercial secrets to the public (not to the judge and parties).
The right bet for Apple
A messaging app that only works on one platform cannot win. Despite the cool new features, as original as they are, Apple is playing injury time. If Apple insists on sticking with its platform, it’s going to need more than just new features to salvage its messaging ambitions.
This phrase brings us suddenly to 2014, when it was pronounced by The Verge. The article, titled “Apple is fighting a messaging war it can’t win” puts us in the context in which iMessage was seen at the time. Everyone (or almost everyone) believed at that time that iMessage should make the leap to Android or die drowned among the multiplatform options such as WhatsApp, Line or Facebook Messenger.
The reality has been determined to contradict so many analysts. Apple did not give his arm to twist and preferred to keep iMessage on their platform, adding functions and support to other devices: Mac and then Apple Watch. In that same 2014 I wrote an article about what Apple means by winning:
To affirm that Apple intends to “win” a messaging war against WhatsApp, Line, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, BlackBerry Messenger and other similar apps is to understand everything backwards. Apple’s business is not having many users on its messaging platform, it is selling hardware differentiated by iMessage and other software.
In 2013, nobody gave a penny for iMessage if it didn’t move to other platforms. Eight years later, it is a very important service due to the level of use and contribution of value to the ecosystem
Seven years later, iMessage is one of the most used messaging apps in the US. Not so in the rest of the world, where WhatsApp continues to dominate. The idea of Apple’s services that are exclusive to its products is that users find value in them. Enough that they prefer to stay on the platform rather than opt for other devices.
Undoubtedly, this issue has been greatly debated within the company, as those emails demonstrate. Differentiation to stay rather than obstacle to leave. It is a very important nuance in this distinction.