Several of our followers on Twitter and Facebook have recently expressed interest in the state of Apple’s efforts to merge its various forms of messaging/chat/videoconferencing/IM functionality across its two key platforms, iOS and Mac OS X. New code spotted in iOS by third party developers may shed some light on this.
IMService is just the first step in a new set of unified functionality spanning FaceTime, iChat and iMessage that will begin with a point update to iOS 5 (based on previous versioning habits, this could be 5.2 or 5.3 as 5.1 is likely to be a unified big fix/feature release spanning both handheld and iPad device families while the following two point releases will be hardware-specific to recent-model handhelds and iPad 3 respectively) somewhere in the same timeframe as the iPad 3 launch — specifically, between mid March and early April 2012.
It is not yet entirely clear whether the applications will merged on either platform, but under the hood, Apple is attempting to tie together all three areas of its realtime communication functionality and prepare for a time when rather than being so separate, FaceTime iChat and iMessage will be far more seamlessly integrated than today’s fragmented implementation.
2012 will also see Macs and iPod Touch models with 3G and 4G data-only (no voice capability, though SMS/MMS support is possible) cellular radio chipsets similar to those used in the iPad, and this will mesh nicely with Apple’s efforts to bring FaceTime to the full range of mobile environments (3G/4G support rather than today’s Wi-Fi only implementation) as well as providing a standardized iMessage/iChat experience across its full product lineup.