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Bringing iMessage to the Desktop

On June 6th, at the WWDC 2011 Keynote, Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs introduced highly anticipated products including: OS X Lion, iOS 5, and iCloud, in promising efforts to bridge the gap between their two operating systems and enable a more flexible and fluid workflow on all devices.

Mac OS X Lion, the latest version of the Mac operating system, was said to have “over 250 new features” including Mission Control, Launchpad, and Multi-Touch Gestures, all working to turn the Mac OS X experience closer to what we expect from the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

Standing among “more than 200 new features” on iOS 5 is Apple’s new proprietary messaging service, iMessage. Put simply, iPhone, iPad and iPod touch owners will be able to send text messages, photos and videos, with conversations synced across all iOS devices via 3G or Wi-Fi connection.

With the introduction of iCloud, an effortless way to store and access your music, photos, and documents on all your devices, Apple blurs the line even further. It will allow content to co-exist harmoniously across all devices, no longer confined to a physical space.

The reality is soon you’ll be able to start a conversation on your iPhone and seamlessly continue it on your iPad or iPod Touch. Unfortunately, for the time being, the Mac desktop is left out of the conversation with no-known support for iMessage. It’s only a matter of time before Apple integrates this feature in an update or upcoming release of their desktop OS.

The question remains: how will such functionality be supported on the Mac OS? Will this support be exclusive for iMessage or host other features such as sending and receiving SMS, phone, and FaceTime calls?

Below is a quick illustration of how some of this could be realized.

Push Notifications on OS X

Similar to push notifications built into various mail applications; this feature sends notifications to your desktop whenever your iPhone receives a text message, phone, or FaceTime call. The notifications can be sent over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or USB connectivity.

Simple iconography communicate the type of incoming transmission (text, phone, or FaceTime) with clear indication of who is trying to reach you and the time.

Clicking on an iM or SMS notification panel will reveal the full text message along with an input field. A user can then read the message and respond accordingly without having to turn their attention away from the screen. The feature provides a convenient and uninterrupted workflow when viewing and responding to text messages on your desktop. All message history (sent and received) are synced across all devices.

A user can access recent notifications, set preferences and check iPhone battery level through the application’s menu bar icon.

iMessage on OS X Lion

Studying Apple’s implementation of iMessage on the iPad hints at a similar approach for what we might see on the Mac OS. The image below is an iMessage conversation as it would appear on the OS X Lion version of Mail.

iMessage texts are identified in your inbox with a simple “iM” tag preceding the text message. The message box is similar to the SMS window found on the iPhone. New and/or continuing messages will go straight to your inbox and become archived in their respective conversation threads.

While iMessage is envisioned here working similarly to Growl-like notifications and the new OS X Mail app; it may be likely to see this support come to fruition in a new iMessage app for Mac. iChat is also expected to play a role in sending and receiving iM, SMS, phone and FaceTime calls.

Whether iMessage support in OS X Lion is a standalone app or builds on iChat; we can only hope that Apple plans on integrating such support in their OS.

Mustafa Al-Qinneh More posts by Mustafa Al-Qinneh