It seemed like a no-brainer when Apple (s aapl) first unveiled iMessage for iOS devices: Why not build it into OS X, too? Well, turns out we may soon see iMessage work across nearly all Apple hardware, if new code discovered in Lion’s iChat (via MacRumors) is any indication.
For those who haven’t been following iOS 5, iMessage is an instant messaging service that works a lot like texting and MMS, but with added features like delivery and read receipts, and without the need for a texting plan from your cellular service provider. It will be available automatically for all iPhones, iPod touches and iPads that can run iOS 5, and you can receive messages at the email address of your choosing.
That means that when I receive a text from another iMessage user, it’ll show up on my iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, so that I can respond with whatever device happens to be closest. The catch is that only iOS users can play; iMessage isn’t cross-platform, and so far doesn’t extend to Apple’s desktop operating system, OS X. But uncovered in Lion’s iChat are two new unused lines of code that suggest we may see that change soon.
Specifically, the code makes reference to “timeDelivered” and “timeRead” fields, yet iChat doesn’t currently support either delivered or read receipts. iMessage, on the other hand, does. With OS X support, you could theoretically receive iMessages on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Mac, making it even easier to read and respond wherever you happen to be working.
OS X support for iMessage is a logical next step, and one which I pointed out as a notable omission back when the service was first announced. User experience design firm teehan+lax posted an interesting conceptual look at how iMessage on the Mac might work, but simple iChat integration makes even more sense, since the iOS messaging app is based on the same UI to begin with.
FaceTime made the leap from mobile to desktop, and it seems unlikely Apple would have failed to notice the potential in iMessage doing the same. Let’s hope this makes the leap from small to big screen soon, like ideally right around when iOS 5 drops.