Hello, iMessage?

Jessica Lessin, in her weekly column for The Information (paywall):

As Google and Facebook vie to buy fast-growing apps for billions, I have one big question: Where is everyone else?

If Google and Facebook believe WhatsApp and messaging are strategic enough to pay $19 billion or more to own them, what are Apple, Amazon, Samsung or Twitter thinking? (Let’s ignore the fact that WhatsApp may not have wanted to sell to them and think of it from the point of view of how hard these companies should have tried to buy the startup.)

Perhaps they see themselves as being in different businesses. Or they think Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg are a little bit nuts. Time will tell on the second, but I think the verdict on the first is already clear.

I’m sure Apple never even considered acquiring WhatsApp. For one thing, Apple has never done a mega-billion-dollar acquisition. They tend to buy small companies. But for another, what could WhatsApp offer Apple? They already have iMessage, which has (I’m guessing here) at least 200 million users, and sends over 3 billion messages per day. (Sources for guesses: in June 2012, Apple claimed 140 million iMessage users; a year ago, they claimed 2 billion messages per day. I haven’t been able to find more recent numbers; if you can, let me know.) FaceTime offers video and audio calls; WhatsApp has neither. Apple has exactly the messaging platform it wants: one that adds value to its hardware products. And, with the App Store, it has a software platform that means its users also can freely use WhatsApp, Line, Viber, Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM — whatever.

The other thing that struck me about Lessin’s piece: she didn’t even list Microsoft among those companies.

Friday, 21 February 2014