Wil Limoges takes the beta of the new Messages application for a spin -- it will be part of the next Mac OS X Mountain Lion release. Here are his thoughts.
Apple has released details on their upcoming OS dubbed Mountain Lion. With it, Apple is strengthening its cloud strategy by bringing OS X in line with iOS by creating a seamless experience across both platforms. In doing so, Apple has made Messages available now, which is intended to close the communication gap between iOS and OS X. I downloaded and installed it on my Macbook Air and have been using it over the course of a few days; so far, I like it.The first thing you’ll notice about Messages is that it still looks and functions very much like iChat, the application that it replaces. It retains the Buddies window that contains your list of contacts and most if not all the features and functionality. Also, Apple decided to fold FaceTime over into Messages as well. I was very pleased to see the consolidation of FaceTime and Messages since it just seems to make much more sense. The most obvious change appears once you attempt to initiate a chat. Instead of a single chat window we’ve grown accustom to in iChat, now the user is presented with a familiar iOS-like interface. Recent conversations now appear on the left of the window along with a search field that allows you to search conversations and a button to create a new one, just like you would find in iOS. The conversation area on the right displays your conversation and a FaceTime button for initiating FaceTime conversations. One notable feature that I discovered -- and was thrilled to see -- is the ability to transfer files between iOS devices and Messages on OS X. By taking a file and dragging it into the text field of the conversation window you can send a file to any iCloud-enabled chat user, including those who are on iOS devices. While I’ve successfully had many conversations using the new software, it seems as though not much here has really changed. I love the look of the new chat window, however, I feel that it still has some room to grow. I would love to see Apple cleverly consolidate everything into a single window, much like the new Reminders application in Mountain Lion. These days, I prefer to see my Twitter client on my screen instead of my buddy list, and since it’s still in beta -- there's still time to dream. If you have feedback about your experience with Messages, normally I’d suggest you talk about it in the comments, but if you really would like to see functionality or features added, also head over to http://www.apple.com/feedback/ and let Apple know what you would love to see in the final version of Messages.