Last week, there were rumors circling the rumor bowl that Apple would announce it was porting iMessage over to the Android platform. But journalist Walt Mossberg says an unnamed Apple executive has told him there’s simply no reason to do so. The messaging service is worth more to Apple as an iOS-only app.
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.
During Monday’s WWDC keynote, SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi told the gathered faithful about a method Apple is working on of gathering data from users without infringing on their privacy. The method is called differential privacy.
This works by randomizing local data from each device by injecting it with meaningless “noise,” or nonsense data, so it can’t be traced back to the device’s user. Then, this information is mingled on Apple servers with very large amounts of similarly randomized data from many, many other devices. To further protect individuals, Apple is also imposing a “privacy budget” that will prevent too much data — even when randomized — from getting to the server from any one user.
It’s true that some previously Apple-only apps have been ported over to other platforms, such as iTunes (to Windows), and Apple Music over to Android. However, both of those apps are revenue generating apps. Releasing a version of Messages for Android would provide no such revenue, (outside of the possible revenue that might come from the upcoming iMessage App Store). Keeping iMessages iOS-only also adds another important consideration when a consumer is considering the purchase of an iOS device over an Android phone or tablet.