A future version of iChat may introduce new features that significantly boost the ability for users to collaborate on projects.

A recent European Patent Office filing describes the new features, which have been likened in some reports to an "interactive whiteboard".

The patent is described as a: "Method and apparatus for establishing communication between two teleconferencing endpoints".

The patent description seems to describe technologies which allow iChat users to share a common active window, which both sides can manipulate and share. It will be able to contain different media types, including sounds, video, still images, text documents or spreadsheets.

"Such applications sometimes also include data sharing where various types of data, such as documents, spreadsheets, graphic data, or other types of data, can be shared and manipulated by all participants in the teleconference," the patent explains.

The patent description also seems to lay some ground for making iChat more capable of communicating with other instant-messaging solutions. Part of the patent describes a method by which iChat can determine the capabilities of the computers involved in both sides of the chat.

"Different teleconference applications, perhaps residing on different hardware platforms, have different capabilities," it says, describing this diversity as creating "a challenge" for such solutions.