Ever-watchful Apple Insider brings word on yet another Apple patent drop. This one, published in March, sets the stage for the long anticipated -- nay, demanded -- Mobile iChat application.

Though the iPhone already includes a somewhat similar, though carrier-bound, SMS app, the need to move away from device-modal technologies (i.e. phone to phone) to more open protocols (i.e., phone to computer to console, etc.) like Instant Messenger is compelling. In answer, Apple has proposed an interface that builds on the SMS app in significant ways:

[T]he ability to start new messages by searching through the contact list or typing the first few letters of someone's name. Users can also see a past chat history and remove individual conversations from the list. [...] [A] dedicated text field for entering new messages, another would have typed text appear directly in a new message bubble and would replace the text entry box with a list of suggested words.

While the patent could still, technically, be used for SMS or MMS, Apple Insider maintains the former is not mention, while IM is captioned on the image filings.

Personally, I'd love me some first party (multi-tasking?) IM. But how does this relate to the already demoed AOL app? The two work together on the desktop, does that portent a mobile relationship as well? Or is Apple planning on running over them here?

Of course, this could also join the enormous heap of Apple patents that have yet to find any real world application.

What do you think?