Apple Adding 'Business Chat' to Messages, for Enterprise Customer Service

Going against Facebook and Twitter, Apple is offering businesses channels to connect with customers.

Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

June 6, 2017

3 Min Read
Apple Adding 'Business Chat' to Messages, for Enterprise Customer Service

Apple is going against Facebook and Twitter, launching Business Chat, a service allowing companies to connect with customers using Apple's own Messages service on the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch.

A teaser page on the Apple Inc. website doesn't have much to say: "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."

The page lists the service as a "Developer Preview," and announces an introductory video that will stream live from Apple's World Wide Developer Conference on Friday, June 9 at 10:00 a.m. PDT.

Figure 1:

Both Facebook and Twitter Inc. are making moves on using chat for customer service, offering a variety of custom services for enterprises, including chatbots.

Facebook had 1.94 billion monthly active users as of March 31, 2017, up 17% year-over-year. For Twitter, average monthly active users were 328 million for the quarter ending the same date.

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As for Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s Messages: We were unable to pin down numbers. However, BMO Capital Markets estimates there were more than 700 million iPhones in use as of March, and it's safe to say that virtually all of them are Messages users -- who's going to buy a smartphone and not use a texting service? On the other hand, many of those iPhone users will also be Twitter and Facebook users. And Twitter and Facebook run on Android phones, while Apple Messages does not. Android accounts for about 53% of US market share, while Apple has 43%, according to comScore.

So the potential reach of Messages seems significantly more than that of Twitter but significantly less than that of Facebook.

The Messages announcement follows Apple's big spring news event earlier this week, which featured a strong cloud component. Apple introduced HomePod, a home speaker that functions as a cloud endpoint, competing with the Amazon Echo and Google Home. It also rolled out Macs with virtual reality support, a new version of the iOS operating system with augmented reality support, Siri upgrades and new iPads. (See Apple Tunes Up Siri & Cloud Services.)

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About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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