So here is an interesting read for this weekend: It's about Messages, how they've just made it across to the desktop (in beta form, sure, but coming soon in final version form), and how they sort of "compete" against FaceTime in Apple's messaging domain. Writer Trevor Gilbert's suggestion is that Apple should combine those two protocols into one messaging service, and then here's the real kicker: Open them up, so that any platform, and essentially any app, could tag in and use those protocols. In that sense, they'd be very similar to ICQ or AIM, or any of the other chat services currently out there, except of course they'd be running on and licensed through Apple's technology.
Gilbert makes a good case for consumers (and certainly, I'd appreciate using Messages and FaceTime with my friends and family who don't happen to have Macs or iPhones). But I don't think Apple's that keen to open up the standard like this: as it is now, Messages and FaceTime are both selling points for Apple devices, and big ones at that. Yes, it would be easier for consumers to use Messages across platforms, but Apple would be opening up the door for other platforms to take advantage of its services, rather than doing what Tim Cook and everyone else in Cupertino has said they want to do all along: sell more and more devices.
Not to mention that Gilbert says the open message service would be "real-time, and free of charge." Real time is right -- Messages certainly works very well. But "free of charge" it is not for Apple at all, and opening up the service for almost anyone to use would definitely make it even more expensive than it already is. It's certainly an interesting idea, and it would have some big ramifications for the messaging market, no question. But right now, I think Messages and FaceTime both are where Apple wants them: extra, selling point services for Apple devices only.