Ahead of Apple’s big WWDC event this week, MacDailyNews reported that Apple would announce the expansion of iMessage to Android. That didn’t happen, but the report left some room for interpretation by claiming that even if the announcement wasn’t made at WWDC, iMessage would still land on Android by the end of the year.
Even if iMessage for Android wasn’t made official, it looks like the rumor was picked up by Walt Mossberg, the veteran tech journalist who is known for his access to Apple’s leadership.
Mossberg, writing on The Verge, said he queried a senior Apple executive about the reasons why iMessage is still exclusive to iOS devices.
The unnamed executive offered two reasons.
First, the exec said, iMessage has enough users (more than a billion) for Apple to be able to use the data for artificial intelligence applications. This looks like a reference to the work that Google is doing with Assistant, a critical part of its new Allo messaging service.
Is Apple working on something similar? After the slew of Android-inspired features that the Cupertino company announced for iOS 10, that seems quite likely. Even on a higher level, it’s clear to anyone watching that AI will change absolutely every aspect of technology in the next years. Apple has been slow out of the gate, but rest assured that AI is a big part of its plans for the future.
Second, keeping iMessage exclusive to iOS devices is an incentive for users to keep buying Apple, the executive said. That’s especially true in the United States, we might add, as Android is much more prevalent in the rest of the world.
To recap: Apple doesn’t open iMessage to Android because it doesn’t need to (iMessage does well enough on iOS) and because it doesn’t want to (iMessage keeps people locked to iOS).
That doesn’t mean that iMessage will be exclusive to iOS forever. In fact, the mere fact that Apple talked to Walt Mossberg about the idea shows that it was discussed internally. After Apple Music landed on Android last year, it’s clear that Apple is willing to explore other platforms, and the incentive to explore Android will only get stronger as iPhone sales decline.
Opening up iMessage for Android would give Apple massive momentum in the messaging race. The platform’s user base would balloon right away. The question is, does Apple want to be a real internet service player? Our guess is that, like it or not, Apple will have to become a service provider, if it wants to keep up with Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. Hardware is sexy, and very profitable, but without a strong push into services, Apple will be at the mercy of its competitors.