Google and Major Telcos Urge EU to Regulate iMessage as Core Platform Service

In a collaborative effort, Google and a consortium of major European telecommunications companies, including Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica, and Orange, have co-signed a letter urging the European Commission to designate Apple’s iMessage as a core platform service under the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA). The move comes as part of ongoing efforts to push Apple towards interoperability with other messaging services.

The letter, seen by The Financial Times, argues that iMessage serves as a crucial gateway between business users and their customers, justifying its regulation as a “core” service under the DMA. Such a designation could potentially compel Apple to make iMessage interoperable with other messaging platforms, breaking its current exclusivity.

This development follows Google’s persistent campaign for Apple to adopt RCS, a cross-platform messaging standard positioned as the successor to SMS. The search giant has been vocal about Apple’s iMessage “lock-in” strategy, emphasizing the need for industry-wide messaging standards.

While Apple’s Messages app allows cross-platform communication via SMS, the enhanced features of iMessage, such as encryption and higher-quality multimedia, remain exclusive to Apple’s ecosystem. The distinctive blue bubbles of iMessage serve as a visual differentiator, contributing to what Google terms a strategy of “peer pressure and bullying” by Apple.

The letter, reportedly signed by an unnamed Google senior vice-president and the CEOs of major telcos, contends that iMessage meets the criteria for a core platform service under the DMA. Specifically, the focus is on Apple’s substantial annual revenues exceeding €7.5 billion and a user base of at least 10,000 monthly active business users in the EU.

The argument emphasizes iMessage as a vital link between businesses and consumers, particularly within the context of enriched messages to iOS users. The letter suggests that this positioning justifies Apple’s designation as the gatekeeper for iMessage.

Apple, in response, highlighted the accessibility of various messaging apps for consumers and the ease of switching between them. The company asserted that iMessage is tailored for personal consumer communications and expressed readiness to explain to the commission why iMessage falls outside the scope of the DMA.

The ongoing investigation by the European Commission into whether iMessage should be designated a core platform service under the DMA is expected to conclude by February next year. Apple has previously contended that iMessage lacks popularity in the EU and lacks support for business-focused features like APIs, arguments likely to be scrutinized in the ongoing regulatory process.