02/16/2012 01:35 pm ET | Updated Feb 16, 2012

OS X Messages: New Mountain Lion Feature Replaces IChat

One of the new features unveiled Thursday in Apple's surprise unveiling of OS X Mountain Lion -- the next incarnation of Apple's desktop operating system -- is Messages, an application meant to replace iChat.

Inspired by iOS's iMessage app, Messages will allow Mac users to send messages, photos, videos and other attachements to the iPad, iPhone and iPod, according to Apple.

Users will also be able to video chat using FaceTime as well as see when the person you're communicating with is writing back.

Like iMessage, the messages sent to and from your mobile won't count against the SMS allotment you have with your wireless carrier.

According to TechCrunch, 26 billion iMessages have been sent in the four months since iOS 5 launched.

Messages also supports other instant message services like AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo! Messenger and Jabber.

While OS X Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8) won't be available for the general public until this summer, users with Lion (OS X 10.7) can already download a beta version of Messages. Just visit Apple's official download page and install Messages onto your hard drive to get started.

CNET's Josh Lowensohn notes that the desktop Mac experience is continuing to look more and more like that of Apple's mobile devices:

Of course, the idea of convergence between the two platforms is nothing new. When taking the wraps off Lion (Mountain Lion's predecessor) in 2010, Steve Jobs said the software was what the company imagined would happen if the iPad and the MacBook "hooked up."

Indeed, on its launch page, Apple touts the operating system as "inspired by iPad. Re-imagined for Mac."

Click here for more on Mountain Lion's new features, or check out the slideshow (below).

OS X Mountain Lion Features (CLONED)