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Apple's iMessage protocol headed to iChat?

Apple's upcoming chat service for its iOS devices could end up as part of Apple's Mac OS X chat software as well, according to a new report.


Following in the footsteps of Apple's FaceTime video chat, Apple's iMessage could be the next feature to make the jump from iOS to Apple's Mac OS X.

MacRumors today points to a code string within OS X Lion's iChat software noting when messages are both delivered and read, receipts that are currently available as part of its upcoming iMessage service. The outlet notes that these particular code strings haven't appeared in previous versions of the iChat software, suggesting support for the protocol will be there when iMessage officially launches this fall.

Apple introduced iMessage as part of its unveiling of iOS 5 at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June. The new messaging service lets users on iOS devices chat with one another like they would send a text message. However, the service itself is not tied to any carriers and has been designed to work on non-cellular devices like the Wi-Fi only version of the iPad, and current model iPod Touch.

FaceTime, which is Apple's video chat service, made a similar jump from iOS to Mac OS X users last October. Apple first offered the software only to iPhone 4 users to chat with one another while on Wi-Fi networks. The company later brought the software to Mac users as a free public beta, before selling it for 99 cents on the Mac App Store and including it as a freebie on new machines.

That Apple could be including iMessage in iChat is of special note given questions about the future of the desktop software. While iChat remains a real-time chat solution, iMessage pulls double duty enabling both real-time and asynchronous communication through the same protocol. Apple also broke out iChat's one-on-one video chat feature as its own app with FaceTime, which strayed from depending on third-party protocols.

Apple is expected to launch iOS 5 alongside its next iPhone next month.