A new deposit (first spotted by The Verge) in the Epic Games v. Apple case reveals Apple’s internal considerations for potentially bringing iMessage to Android, including concerns from Apple executives that the search giant could win the messaging wars if Google buys WhatsApp .
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There was once a big messaging decision for Google when they considered buying WhatsApp. The rumors first started in April 2013 when Digital Trends reported that Google was negotiating a $ 1 billion buyout of the company. WhatsApp officially shot down the rumor just days later, but between the start and end of this rumor, Apple executives started talking.
Eddy Cue, Apple’s SVP for Internet Software and Services, advocated the company fighting Google + WhatsApp with iMessage on Android, and wrote in an email: “We really need to bring iMessage to Android. Me had a couple of people we should investigate, but we should go into full swing and make this an official project. “
Going on with his argument, Cue said, “Are we going to lose one of the most important apps in a mobile environment to Google? They have search, email, free videos, and [are] grows rapidly in browsers. We have the best messaging app and we should make it the industry standard. I don’t know how we can monetize it, but it doesn’t cost us much to run it. “
Craig Federighi, Apple’s SVP for Software Engineering, joined the email chain:
Do you have any thoughts on how we would make switching to iMessage (from WhatsApp) attractive to a wide variety of Android users who don’t have iOS friends? iMessage is a nice app / service, but to get users to switch social networks we need more than a slightly better app. (This is why Google is willing to pay $ 1 billion – for the network, not the app.) … In the absence of a strategy, to become the primary messaging service for [the] I am concerned that iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove an obstacle for iPhone families giving Android phones to their children.
The deposit continues to investigate Apple’s iMessage-on-Android discussions, but unfortunately that part of the document has been edited.
WhatsApp denied the buyout rumors but was bought just a year later. Google’s offer for the company reportedly hit $ 10 billion, but that wasn’t enough to match Facebook, which WhatsApp bought for a $ 22 billion deal in February 2014. The Facebook / WhatsApp deal was one of the biggest tech acquisitions of all time. With Facebook at the wheel, WhatsApp has grown from 450 million users to over 2 billion. Cue was absolutely right about WhatsApp’s trajectory.
A major turning point for Google is not buying WhatsApp in 2013. Google would launch seven competing messaging and video apps over the years: Google Hangouts in 2013; Google Spaces, Google Allo, and Google Duo in 2016; and Google Chat and Google Meet in 2017. The company also pushed for RCS via Google Messages in 2019. Cue’s prediction that the company could “lose” to a Google-run WhatsApp now seems like a dream from a bygone era.
Cue also called messaging “one of the most important apps in a mobile environment,” which is a noticeable difference from Google’s approach to messaging. At Google, messaging is only ever managed by an endless series of underfunded, unstable side projects led by job-hopping project managers. Google releases a new messaging app roughly every 12 to 18 months, which makes it very difficult for any individual app to gain a foothold and reduce consumer confidence in a single product. The heads of these projects often leave the company shortly after a lively product launch. Without a top-down instruction on what the company should support, the products typically get wound up once the market leader leaves.
Federighi’s comments reflect Apple’s longstanding position that iMessage is a key component in Apple’s walled garden and that the company shouldn’t make it easy for “iPhone families” to integrate Android devices. The Epic case previously revealed a 2016 comment by Apple’s Phil Schiller that “moving iMessage to Android will do us more harm than good”.