iChat - Mac OS X Leopard VoIP Application

Mac Pro Yosemite

iChat is the popular instant messaging, voice and video chat application for Apple's Mac operating systems. The latest Mac OS X, Leopard, has brought around an enhanced version of iChat. Apple has bundled new features with this new version of iChat that Mac chatters used to look for in third-party applications.

Since iChat is only an application; it needs a service to work with. Apple has partnered with AOL (America OnLine) for the text, voice and video service. This means you need to have either an AOL or a Mac account to be able to use iChat.

iChat Enhancements and New Features in MacOSX Leopard

  • Voice and video quality
    • Previous versions of iChat, in previous Mac OS X versions, had less-than-good voice quality when compared to Skype. With the Leopard version, iChat's voice quality has considerably improved and can even compare to that of Skype. This new version of iChat uses the AAC-LD audio codec, and Apple claims that this provides 'crystal-clear voice quality.'
  • Multiple-tabs
    • In the previous version, chatters had to open another window for each chat thread or install a plugin called Chax for multiple-tab chatting. With Leopard's iChat, the multiple-tab functionality is embedded, which is the case also for its browser Safari2.
  • Call recording
    • Same thing happens for voice and video recording. With previous versions, third-party software like Conference Recorder had to be installed. Leopard's iChat allows recording of video conferencing and voice call sessions.
  • Multiple logins
    • If you have more than one AOL or Mac account, Leopard's iChat allows you to log in to all your accounts at the same time, which was impossible previously.
  • Multimedia shows
    • Any file supported by Mac's Quick Look can be shown in a chat session on Leopard's iChat. You can have remote Keynote presentations, movie playing, video feed etc. during a chat session.
  • Control sharing
    • With Leopard's iChat, two chatting parties can observe and control a single desktop. This makes troubleshooting, and many other fun kinds of stuff better.
  • Enhanced chat features
    • These include animated buddy icons, invisibility, SMS forwarding, file transfer, better views, multiple logins and multiple tabs.
  • Fancy stuff
    • Leopard adds some triviality to iChat. In your video, you can have backdrops - with you in the foreground and any picture in the background; such that you can (seemingly) chat with a T-shirt on in Antarctica. You can also add Photo Booth effects to your figure.

iChat's Worth

We need to consider iChat as being an Operating System satellite application, which, in itself, is already an advantage. However, third party software doing the same tasks have shown to be richer in features and more flexible. With Leopard, Apple has moulded iChat in a way to bridge the gap between it and third-party voice, chat and video applications.

I personally don't see what big deal you get from iChat that you don't from third-party software, but I would adopt iChat anyway for these reasons:
- It is part of the OS, and therefore provides better integration;
- It embeds what several third-party applications would have, so no need to spend more money on those;
- Its voice and video quality have considerably improved.

With the new features and better voice and video quality, heavy chatters will be happier. Businesses will find it interesting too, with the possibility of giving remote Keynote presentations and sharing files, for example.

What Could Be Better

There is, however, one thing that so many Mac users complain about iChat: the lack of compatibility with other instant messengers like Yahoo, MSN, GTalk, Skype and so on. In fact, there is a possibility to interact with some of the other instant messengers, but indirectly, through Jabber servers, which Apple proposes for the task; but having the stuff directly as is the case with many Windows instant messengers isn't possible. Mac users were hoping that this would come with Leopard, but it didn't. Is Apple at odds with the idea? It makes you think more when you know that third-party instant messaging software for Mac, like Adium and Fire, do allow this.

Read more on Leopard's iChat from Apple.