Apple is building its forthcoming iMessage application into iChat, according to code discovered within the a new version of the Mac OS X instant messaging client.
Announced as part of iOS 5 in June, iMessage brings free text and multi-media messaging between iOS users over 3G, offering a similar service to BlackBerry Messenger and Google Talk on other platforms.
Now Apple is preparing to extend the functionality to the Skype-alike iChat IM service that's been a staple of Mac OS X since its inception.
That would enable iPhone users to exchange pictures and messages for free with iPhone users, and vice versa.
The reason for this hope comes from a few lines of code discovered by a developer peering into a new iteration of the iChat application.
The code now features evidence of 'read' and 'delivered' notifications, which weren't present in the previous version. Those same notifications have been promised as part of iMessage.
iMessage will arrive for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch when iOS is launched 'this fall'. The latest speculation suggests that the new version of the OS will arrive on or around October 10th.