iMessage serves as “an important gateway between business users and their customers” and should be regulated as a “core” service under the EU’s new Digital Markets Act (DMA), Google and a group of major European telecom operators said in a letter sent to the European Commission. Gaining “core platform service” status would be important for iMessage, as it could force Apple to ensure its compatibility with other messaging services.
The letter comes at a time when the European Commission is examining whether iMessage qualifies under the strict DMA rules.
Google has repeatedly stated its desire for Apple to adopt RCS, the cross-platform messaging standard heralded as the successor to SMS, as part of its #GetTheMessage campaign. “Apple’s blocking of iMessage is a documented strategy,” Google senior vice president Hiroshi Lockheimer wrote last year on X, then called Twitter. “Using peer pressure and bullying as a way to sell products is disingenuous for a company for which humanity and fairness are a core part of marketing. There are standards in place today to remedy this.”
Apple’s Messages app already lets you send cross-platform messages via SMS. However, iMessage’s advanced features, such as encryption and higher quality photos and videos, are exclusive to Apple’s ecosystem. Apple iMessage users communicate using blue baubles with more features, while everyone else communicates using modest green ones.
The letter, which is signed by an unnamed senior vice president at Google as well as executives from Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica and Orange, claims that iMessage meets the Digital Markets Act’s requirements for core services. Namely, that the messaging platform is operated by a company with annual revenues of more than €7.5 billion and has at least 10,000 monthly active business users in the EU. The focus on business users reflects the fact that, under the DMA, “gatekeepers” and their core platform services are considered “important links between businesses and consumers”.
The letter sent to Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton states, “Through iMessage, business users can only send enriched messages to iOS users and must rely on traditional SMS for all other end users.” iMessage is an important gateway between businesses and their customers, and this “certainly justifies Apple’s designation as a gatekeeper for its iMessage service,” the letter argued.
Apple pointed to a statement in response, saying that “consumers today have access to a wide range of messaging applications and often use multiple applications at once, reflecting the ease of switching between them.”
“iMessage is designed and marketed for consumers’ personal communications, and we look forward to explaining to the Commission why iMessage is not subject to the DMA,” the statement went on to say. According to the Commission’s statement, Apple has previously argued that iMessage is not popular enough in the EU to be classified as a major platform service and that it lacks support for business-oriented features such as APIs.
The Commission is still investigating whether iMessage should be designated as a main platform service under the DMA. A decision is expected by February next year.
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