updated 08:10 pm EDT, Sat October 16, 2010
FaceTime code hints multi-person chat
A discovery in a FaceTime preference file for iOS devices has suggested this evening that Apple has at least made room for multi-user FaceTime calls. The "AllowsMultipleConnections" key in Service Properties implies that Apple could switch on the feature once more of a framework is in place. The flag is normally set to "false," and initial attempts by iPodTouchFans forum members to flip it to "true" haven't exposed any new features.
Apple has been an advocate of simple multi-person video chat since iChat AV gained the feature, but it has largely been impractical on iOS devices so far. The iPad may have simplified Apple's goals by providing a large enough screen to clearly show more than one caller, but it currently lacks the front camera to justify its presence. Repeated rumors have alluded to a camera-equipped iPad sequel arriving early next year.
It's unknown whether iChat itself will get the feature, although the unearthed code string has come just before Apple's Mac OS X Lion preview event and carries a chance that Apple could show FaceTime on the desktop. An unverified rumor has argued for FaceTime-ready iChat but has yet to receive any concrete evidence. Windows users are an additional concern, since no iChat port exists for Windows and would lock out many without either an official app or else delivering on the promise of an open spec for companies like AOL and Skype to use.