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