Since Android is estimated to run on 80% of the world's wireless phones, having a common messaging app could help Google gain a stronghold in the mobile messaging market, French said.
Google’s RCS app won't replace the Hangouts app, according to the Google source. The RCS app will be separate from both Hangouts and Google Plus.
A report that circulated in December and was first posted by Phandroid, said that Hangouts would lose its SMS and MMS functionality. But Google wouldn't confirm the report.
JR Raphael, author of Computerworld's Android Power blog, described himself as a heavy user of Hangouts for messaging with other people. Hangouts is "useful, especially as a subscriber to Google's Project Fi service, which allows you to use Hangouts to access all messages, including SMS, from any device or platform," he said. "But I've also grown frustrated with Google's divided attention to the messaging domain and the often-slow progress on Hangouts that results from it ... I wish Google would settle on a single messaging client already."
The Jibe acquisition and RCS are Google's attempts "to reduce Apple's advantage with iMessage," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "The Android RCS app could conceivably run on every phone, providing high quality messaging between all Android and iOS phones."
Whether Apple would ever accept RCS in a common platform with Android is questionable, however. And given that the GSM universe has about 800 carriers, Google has a big job ahead of it to achieve adoption, French and others said.
"RCS has taken forever to take hold," added Bob O'Donnell, an analyst at Technalysis Research. "Google realizes they have fragmentation at numerous levels with Android and a core service like messaging is where they need to do more. RCS would bring a universal way to do services like Snapchat and Whatsapp. So, moving to RCS does make sense, but you wonder why it has taken so long."
While Google describes the RCS app as separate from Hangouts and Google+, the company recently took another step perceived as an attempt to improve Google's mobile social networking acumen. The company last week announced the hiring of Christopher Poole, the founder of the controversial 4chan site, an innovator in building online communities.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.