Google, alongside several leading European telecommunications firms, has made a case to the European Commission for considering iMessage a critical service within the framework of the European Union's Digital Markets Act (DMA). This consideration could potentially require Apple to ensure iMessage's compatibility with alternative messaging systems.
This proposal comes at a time when the European Commission is evaluating if iMessage conforms to the stringent criteria of the DMA for regulatory oversight.
Google has openly criticized Apple's reluctance to embrace RCS, a messaging protocol seen as an upgrade from traditional SMS, through its public campaign. Google's top executive has accused Apple of leveraging iMessage to lock users into its ecosystem, a move they consider hypocritical to Apple's professed values of humanity and fairness.
While Apple's messaging service is capable of sending basic SMS messages across different platforms, the superior functionalities of iMessage, such as end-to-end encryption and the ability to send high-quality media, are exclusive to users within the Apple environment. This exclusivity creates a visual distinction between iMessage users and those using different platforms, symbolized by the colors of the message bubbles.
The Financial Times has reported on a communiqué, endorsed by high-ranking officials from Google and the chief executives of Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica, and Orange, which presents the argument that iMessage qualifies as a fundamental platform service under the stipulations of the Digital Markets Act. The argument is based on the service being provided by a corporation whose annual income exceeds €7.5 billion and which serves a significant number of business users in the EU, specifically over 10,000 active monthly users. This emphasis on business communication underscores the role of such platform providers as essential intermediaries between businesses and consumers according to the DMA's definitions.
The communication to Thierry Breton, the internal market commissioner, contends that iMessage currently limits business users to enhanced messaging capabilities solely within the iOS user base, leaving interactions with users of other systems to basic SMS. The signatories posit that this situation unquestionably supports the case for considering Apple as a controlling entity regarding its iMessage service.
In response to an inquiry from The Verge, Apple has not provided immediate comments. However, they directed The Financial Times to a release asserting that the present market offers consumers a broad spectrum of messaging applications, indicating the ease of transitioning among them.
In this release, Apple has highlighted that iMessage is tailored and promoted primarily for personal communication among consumers, and they anticipate the opportunity to clarify to the commission the reasons why iMessage does not fall within the DMA's regulatory purview. The Commission has received counterarguments from Apple, suggesting that iMessage does not have a substantial enough presence in the EU to be considered a key service and lacks certain business-oriented functionalities, such as APIs.
The European Commission's deliberation on the categorization of iMessage as a critical platform service in accordance with the DMA is currently in progress, with a resolution expected by the coming February.