Apple to Integrate IMessage, IChat

Apple plans to integrate iMessage into iChat, combining iOS 5 and OS X features, as the company competes against Facebook Chat and BlackBerry Messenger.

Strings of code found in iChat for OS X Lion show the potential for “time delivered” and “time read” stamps to appear next to messages, functionalities previously only associated with iMessage. The uncovered code suggests iMessage will be compatible with iChat when it launches later this year.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company’s iMessage service, coming in iOS 5, lets users on iPhone and iPad devices send messages to one another the same way they would send a text message. The service is completely independent of carrier, and messages can be sent over Wi-Fi or 3G and will not show up as a text message on the customer’s bill.

The feature will allow users to start a conversation on their mobile phone, go to work and continue it on their computer and even transition it to an iPad.

IMessage is Apple’s response to RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger service, a private encrypted chat service. Facebook is also active in the mobile chat game, its users communicating through Facebook Chat on the social network’s website, with the ability to then continue conversations on an Android or iOS device using the mobile app.

Apple’s integration of a singular service across multiple devices is not something new, with the company integrating its video chat feature, Facetime, across its range of products after it launched last year. Users with an iOS device with a front-facing camera and MacBook users with a webcam can all use Facetime, enabling video chat from Macbook to iPod, iPad to iPhone, and any other combination of capable products.

By integrating iChat with iMessage, Apple plans give consumers a more streamlined message-sending experience. The combination of enhancing iOS devices and MacBooks with iMessage capabilities may give Apple a tremendous potential user base for its brand new service and make it even more of a threat to its competition.

This post originally appeared at Mobiledia.

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