updated 03:36 pm EDT, Thu April 18, 2013
Support for clients on iOS, Chrome listed, likely to replace Google Talk
Evaluation of Gmail HTML code in a leaked Google employee-only page have revealed that not only is the previously rumored unified chat service in testing, but it also has hooks for clients running the iOS. New features listed in the code are a new conversation-based UI, advanced group communications, picture transmission, and improved notifications across devices.
Google describes the new service in the page as "Google's new messenger with clients for Android, iOS, Chrome, Google+ and Gmail. Access the same conversation list from anywhere!" Multiple sources claim that Google is building Babel in order to consolidate the myriad of Google chat and communication services. The rumored service would allow users to share images in chat windows, start Hangouts with contact lists, and generally provide the same feature set through every Google product including Google+, and Gmail.
The future service is likely to be based on XMPP, an open platform for chat and messaging services already used across a wide range of Google services, including the extant Google Talk. Typically open for non-native XMPP requests, it is suggested that Google's step in blocking such requests is a first step towards a closed communications platform, one that could end up being larger than BlackBerry Messenger and iMessage.
No timeframe has been mentioned for Babel's release, but more details relating to product unification are likely to be issued during Google I/O in May.