Apple’s Eddy Cue aimed to get iMessage on Android as far back as 2013

iMessage has become such a strong part of the Apple ecosystem that it leads many to stay “locked in“, keeping them away from the primary alternative, Android.

And while documentation revealed as part of the ongoing legal battle between Apple and Epic Games indicated that Apple’s well-aware of that potential lock-in due to iMessage, at least one executive was pushing to get it on Android many, many years ago. Senior VP Eddy Cue, in fact, according to court documentation handed over by Epic Games.

The Verge was the first to notice the interesting details. As part of the trial, the depositions of both Cue and Scott Forstall were made public just recently. But it’s Cue’s that’s really interesting, insofar that it reveals he was actually trying to get iMessage (a major cornerstone of iOS and Apple’s overall ecosystem these days) onto Android way back in 2013.

The documentation reveals email conversations with Cue and Craig Federighi, with the former pushing to get a full team working on an Android port of iMessage.

Here’s that exchange, at least in brief:

Cue: We really need to bring iMessage to Android. I have had a couple of people investigating this but we should go full speed and make this an official project…. Do we want to lose one of the most important apps in a mobile environment to Google? They have search, mail, free video, and growing quickly in browsers. We have the best messaging app and we should make it the industry standard. I don’t know what ways we can monetize it but it doesn’t cost us a lot to run.

Federighi: Do you have any thoughts on how we would make switching to iMessage (from WhatsApp) compelling to masses of Android users who don’t have a bunch of iOS friends? iMessage is a nice app/service, but to get users to switch social networks we’d need more than a marginally better app. (This is why Google is willing to pay $1 billion — for the network, not for the app.)…In the absence of a strategy to become the primary messaging service for [the] bulk of cell phone users, I am concerned [that] iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove an obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones.

The deposition also includes a question regarding launching iMessage on Android. Cue was asked as part of the deposition whether or not that “created an obstacle to families giving their kids Android phones”, and Cue responded by saying, “No, not at all”.

If nothing else, the trial between Apple and Epic Games has led to some very interesting soundbites up to this point. The bench trial is set to begin on May 3, 2021. Earlier today, Apple’s filed expert testimony against Epic Games was revealed, showing Apple’s still trying to make a case for the security of the App Store.