WWDC 2017 Social Comms (3): iMessage and Business messaging

Apple keeps strengthening their ecosystem approach and moves iMessage into B2B

I am paying attention to the announcements from Apple during WWDC 2017 that have an impact on its strategy around Social Communications. This article is part of a series that covers:

“iMessages in Cloud”

During the new MacOS High Sierra announcement I was confused by a feature reflected in a slide but not discussed:

Fortunately, this was covered later as part of the iOS 11 presentation about iMessage. “Messages in iCloud” is an enrichment of the current multidevice capabilities in Apple devices, incorporating full synchronization of conversations you have across Messages apps. This is a slight improvement on the current experience (that already brings all your messages to all your devices), that will support things like:

  • populating all your “communications history” (all your old messages) when you add a brand new iPad to your iCloud account
  • seamless removal of messages and conversations in all devices. Remove once, disappear everywhere.

The way “Messages in iCloud” was presented pointed simultaneously to a philosophy of giving higher privacy control to the user, and to a recognition that the information exchanged in conversations is valuable as content (“Comms as Content”), as long as users can keep it tidy and consistent across their devices. I can relate to both aspects.

iMessages as a Platform

This is also makes even more sense with the additional value that Apple has brought to Messages with two new features:

  • Person-to-person payments via Apple Pay in iMessage. Turning conversations into a transaction history too, makes it something more relevant to keep.
  • Business Chat. This one was not covered in the WWDC Keynote, but was reflected in the busy “list-of-features” slide around iOS 11 — see if you can catch it here:

The informationthat can be found about “Business Chat” comes from Apple’s developer documentation:

Business Chat is a powerful new way for businesses to connect with customers directly from within Messages. Using Business Chat, your customers can get answers to questions, resolve issues and complete transactions on their iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Customers can find your business and start conversations from Safari, Maps, Spotlight, and Siri.

So Apple is providing a tool for business to be able to leverage the iMessage network to be in touch with their customers. The wording “customers can find your business and start conversations” implies to me that business will not be able to push messages into customers (at least not if customers didn’t start that conversation first), so that the potential for spam on this channel is controlled.

But still this means that Apple is taking up a piece of the current A2P (“application to person”) messaging business, and moving into what is expected to be the key element for WhatsApp’s business model. I already talked about the possible approach for WhatsApps in B2B in a previous post. Rich text conversations from businesses with customers is also the main playfield around many initiatives, like Facebook’s chatbot platform, and also the main hope behind the GSMA’s latest approach to the RCS communication service, but that even with Google “support” has a tiny chance of success.

Since social communications are increasingly free for end users, monetization is being pursued by enabling businesses to be part of them. Looks like Apple is getting there too.

You can read on to the next article in my WWDC Social Communications analysis: WWDC 2017 Social Comms (4): WebRTC and CallKit enhancements

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