Apple’s iMessage Shortsightedness

This week at Word Wide Developer’s Conference 2016 (WWDC16) Apple showed off a number of new features and improvements to the iMessage application which are coming with iOS10.   Many of these features are interesting and a lot of those which I may find less than fascinating, are certainly catering to a different public.

All of that is good, but there is one thing that really stuck out to me as being missing:  multi-platform support.  While I love Apple’s operating systems and hardware, not everyone does so or is willing to pay for them.  This makes iMessage the least used messaging application on my iPhone and essentially never used on my Mac.  Why?  It’s very simple:  my son used a Windows Phone, while my mother and my brother use Android phones.  Only my wife, in my immediate family is an iPhone user.

At work, most of my work colleagues are iPhone users as well, though not all of them by far. Even corporate phones are divided with the company supplying both Apple and Samsung models.

Following the WWDC16 keynote address, I ran into a post by Walt Mossberg which had the following passage in it…

When I asked a senior Apple executive why iMessage wasn’t being expanded to other platforms, he gave two answers. First, he said, Apple considers its own user base of 1 billion active devices to provide a large enough data set for any possible AI learning the company is working on. And, second, having a superior messaging platform that only worked on Apple devices would help sales of those devices — the company’s classic (and successful) rationale for years.

I couldn’t really get this out of my mind for a while and I kept thinking about how wrong this sounds.   An iPhone, despite the fact that we use it for a lot more than talking to one another, is essentially a communications device.  It is just plain shortsightedness to limit its ability to function as a such using its own built-in apps.

Due to the diversity of phone systems found in within my closes circles I mostly use Whatsapp for messaging my family, friends and co-workers.  Why?  Simply because it is available in all the platforms that we use.  While I do miss a desktop version of Whatsapp, the Web version makes a passable substitute.

I had nearly forgotten about my thoughts on this topic until I ran into a citation of this very comment on MacRumors and it got me all fired up again.   It is not the first such move that Apple makes which focus on keeping value within its ecosystem, such as not making iTunes music available on Android devices, but music is essentially a solo application.  You put on your headphones and you listen to you your music.

The nature of a messaging platform, on the other hand is very different. This restriction is just diminishing the potential value for all the work they put into making iMessage a more interesting service as it restricts who you can use it with.

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