Why doesn’t Apple bring iMessage to Android?

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It’s called a strategy tax*: Bad for customers, good for the company’s long-term goals.

 

From Joanna Stern’s Ugh, Green Bubbles! Apple’s iMessage Makes Switching to Android Hard in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal ($)

For the last week I have been living with the Google Pixel 3, and I can tell you how great a phone it is, but what I really want to tell is that Apple has erected some high walls around its iPhone users. Between that and the fact many Americans do love the Apple ecosystem, few try to leave the fortress… The biggest barrier… comes in the shape of a big green bubble.

Stern details all the ways leaving iMessage can screw you up, from hours of switching time to photos of your niece’s Halloween costume lost in the ether. She offers three ways Apple can fix it, but only one of them cuts through the thicket:

Bring iMessage to Android. This is the dream. Sure, it would make switching to Android easier, but here’s a business argument, Apple: Your loyal customers will be happier when messaging Android friends.

*A strategy tax is anything that makes a product less likely to succeed, yet is included to further larger corporate goals —Ben Thompson, Stratechery

My take: As Stern reminds us, Apple invented iMessage because SMS—plain old text messaging—sucks. Remember what happed when Steve Jobs was persuaded to put iTunes on Windows? Imagine how far iMessage could fly if Tim Cook set it free.