Evidence of iMessage integration found in iChat

Almost immediately after Apple releases any piece of code over-eager developers ritualistically scour its strings looking for clues. This time: iMessage for Mac OS.

I've got to hand it to developers, they have an uncanny knack for finding the most obscure tidbits hidden deep within Apple's code.

Almost immediately after Apple releases any piece of software (especially developer betas) over-eager developers begin to ritualistically scour its strings looking for hints at what's coming down the road.

While Apple's internal developers carefully remove references to unreleased products and features before releasing software, it's virtually impossible to catch all the references and they occasionally slip out.

Take for example these new properties (in bold) discovered by a developer buried in the framework of OS X Lion's iChat that was posted on MacRumors:

@interface IMMessage : NSObject { IMHandle *_sender; IMHandle *_subject; NSAttributedString *_text; NSString *_plainBody; NSDate *_time; NSDate *_timeDelivered; NSDate *_timeRead;

The "timeDelivered" and "timeRead' fields indicate the tracking of delivery and read receipts for instant messages. These features, however, are not supported in any of iChat's native messaging protocols, while the same features are offered in Apple's iMessage protocol. These properties were also not present in previous versions of iChat prior to OS X Lion.

Apple's iMessage is due to ship in iOS 5 in October and is Apple's way of sticking it to the mobile carriers because it's completely free. iMessage is a disruptive service because, like BlackBerry MessengerFacebook Messenger and Google+, it completely subverts the over-priced carrier cash cow known as SMS and MMS.

An updated iMessage application would close the gap between iOS and Mac OS devices and allow them to easily exchange free text messages in real-time. It's an obvious service extension for Apple and I would expect the new iMessage-enabled iChat to launch on the same day as iOS via a software update. Unless the software's not ready, there would be no reason for Apple to hold it back because it makes iOS 5 even more appealing.

Things would really get crazy if Apple also launched a Web-based iMessage portal allowing users to send messages to and from any computer, any time. (I put that one in the iChat suggestion box, just in case).

Tip: CNET, Image: iPhoneFAQ