With the announcement of OS X Mountain Lion today, Apple also announced the availability of the beta of Messages, the iMessages equivalent for OS X. The beta, which is part of Mountain Lion and can run on Lion, brings the ability to chat with another iPhone, iPad or Mac user without leveraging SMS (and thus saving text charges). I had a chat with my son (@sgsuperman105) earlier tonight to give it a try and I have to say I’m impressed.
First, the UI is dead simple to use. It is much like the old iChat client but it supports full screen mode in Lion and Mountain Lion. To start a chat just start a new conversation with a contact like you would any other Instant Messaging app or how you would with iMessages on your iPhone or iPad. Like iMessages for iOS, you see speech bubbles for the conversation back and forth and messages were delivered and received with virtually no delay. Given that I was some 1500 miles away from my son during this test and on not-so-reliable WiFi, I was impressed with how fast the application worked.
With Messages you can integrate other IM services such as Google Talk and AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) into the client as well. Keep in mind that Apple is replace iChat, which supported these other services, with Messages so it was essentially a requirement it continue to work with these other services.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of Messages though is the synchronization that it does with your iOS devices. As I had the conversation with my son, the conversation was seamlessly synchronized to my iPhone and iPad. This gives you the ability to start a conversation on one device and then move to another one. Remember that iMessages on iOS does not require WiFi to work. If you are on 3G it will just use your data plan (not SMS’) to get the messages back and forth. It is a brilliant way of allowing you the flexibility to continue a conversation without necessarily being tied to one device.
Another fantastic feature of Messages is the ability to immediately move from Messages to FaceTime on your Mac. This gives you the ability to have a “face to face” conversation without having to do anything other than, literally, clicking a button. When you click the FaceTime button in Messages, the FaceTime app is started and a call is placed to your contact.
FaceTime does require that you be on WiFi if you are on your iPhone or iPad so keep that in mind if you decide to start a session.
In my testing of Messages on Lion I have had zero issues with the app even though it is technically a beta app. Your mileage my vary of course.
You can download the free Messages Beta from the Apple website