Since its introduction in 2002 as part of Apple's Mac OS X operating system, the iChat app has been used to send and receive instant messages with other computer users via a handful of popular services, such as Yahoo!, Google Talk and AIM.
Instant messaging on a computer allows for people to communicate in real-time, for free, by typing messages to each other. During a conversation, iChat also allowed users to share website URLs, photos, video clips, files and documents. To make finding contacts easier, the iChat app also integrates nicely with the Address Book app, also built into the Mac OS X operating system.
The Messages App Has New Features Not Offered By iChat
A decade after the original version of iChat was released, Apple has given it a major overhaul. While Mac users will need to wait until Summer 2012 to upgrade to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion (the latest version of the Mac operating system), a preview (beta) version of the new Messages app has been released, and it is currently available for download from the Apple website.
Not only does Messages replace iChat as an app that can be used for instant messaging, for the first time, Mac users have access to Apple's iMessage text messaging service, which was launched last year in conjunction with iOS 5.0 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. iMessage is a free text messaging service that allows users to send and receive an unlimited number of text messages between compatible Apple devices.
iMessage, which utilizes the web, gives users a no-cost alternative to traditional, fee-based text messaging, which is a service provided by wireless cellular service providers, such as AT&T Wireless, Verizon Wireless and Sprint PCS, for use by cellular phone subscribers to communicate with each other using short, text-based massages.
The new Messages app for the Mac combines the capabilities of iChat with those found in the Messages app for iOS devices (such as the iPhone and iPad). This allows Mac users to send/receive either text messages or instant messages, and to communicate with other participating Mac users, as well as iPhone, iPad or iPod touch users. The Messages app for Mac also integrates with Address Book and FaceTime, allowing users to more easily manage their contacts, or switch from a text-based conversation to a video conference with a click of the mouse.
To utilize Messages on a Mac (or any iOS device), it must be connected to the Internet. Then, once it's initially set up, users can send/receive messages via their existing iMessage, AIM, Yahoo!, Google Talk and/or Jabber accounts, plus send/receive photos, videos, attachments, contacts, locations and other data during text-based conversations.