I stumbled across an article this weekend essentially patting Apple on the back for not releasing iMessage for Android smartphones. The author went to great lengths to show;

  • Why it would never happen (they can’t make any money from it)
  • Why it should never happen (because everyone will leave Apple) and
  • Why it’s ok (because no one cares anyway)

However, for me, they completely missed the point, and so have Apple.

Delivering exceptional experiences is the holy grail for any business truly striving for greatness. The problem is, when this collides with profitability, everyone has to make a choice. Unfortunately, instead of delivering an Apple-like experience, they’ve delivered anything but.

Walled gardens are prehistoric (just look at Andy Rubin and his new ‘Essential’ company’s Core Values). Lock ’em in and they’ll never leave, because if they do they can’t take their music, or their movies, or their books with them. But wait, shouldn’t my product (or service) should be good enough that they wouldn’t want to leave anyway?

You see I use an iPhone. Some of my friends do too (but not all of them) and so to communicate with those that don’t I have to install Skype, or Whatsapp because they can’t install iMessage.

Apple could have kept me exclusively using Apple products and services IF they’d let others that needed to, install them on their non-Apple phones. Instead, they pushed me away, forcing me to use a competing product. A product that over time, I’ve grown to quite like. The bigger problem is that this empowers their competitors (Whatapp is owned by Facebook and Skype by Microsoft).

As time goes by, it’s easier to just default to those other apps instead of iMessage because now I never have to worry if someone else can download them too. And so what was originally designed to lock us in and protect the profit center does the opposite and pushes us away.

  • Does it matter seeing as iMessage generates no revenue I hear you ask?
  • The bigger question is why am I buying an iPhone if I don’t use any of the apps it comes with?
  • Is the hardware really that much better?
  • If not, why don’t I just buy a different phone that can do everything I need and costs less?

Ultimately, the decision to protect potential profitability (thinking users won’t leave because iMessage is Apple-only) actually runs the risk of pushing users away.

No decision is easy in business. Which way would you go if you had to make the decision?