updated 11:05 am EDT, Thu April 9, 2009
iChat videomail patent
Apple may continue to have an interest in automatic audio or video replies within iChat, a newly-published patent application hints. Under the Apple technology, people away from their computers or simply busy could instruct iChat to play a prerecorded audio or video message to anyone attempting chat. The length of each message could be used-defined.
AV auto-replies were originally expected to be included with Mac OS X Leopard, having been a part of pre-release builds of the OS. They were eventually dropped before the software's 2007 launch, but changes present in the patent filing, dated October 2007, suggest that Apple has persisted in working on the technology.
The updated version could for instance only reply to chat requests after a fixed period of time has elapsed, based on inactivity before or after the request was made. Answering machine messages could also be sent to a remote server, which would permit them to be triggered even when a user is offline. Such a feature would likely be most useful in a corporate setting.
The server could additionally be set to store video responses, such that when a person comes back online, they could view one or more clips recorded by their peers. To facilitate this, Apple proposes creating a generic video mailbox which could be accessed from iPhones or a website. The concept could in theory become especially relevant with the advent of video recording in iPhone 3.0.