Apple has released a beta version of the up-coming Messages for Mac, which replaces the dated iChat application and lets users chat seamlessly between Mac and iOS devices.

Messages is available now as a beta for all OS X 10.7 Lion users and will come bundled with the recently announced Mountain Lion, which will be available in the summer.

Messages for Mac
Credit: Apple

The free application lets users log in to their instant messenger clients - such as Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, AIM and Jabber - but, more importantly, it lets users access their iMessage contacts and conversations.

iMessage conversations are synced with iCloud so they stay up to date on all Apple devices; you can start a conversation on your iPhone or iPad, then carry on right where you left off on your Mac.

Messages for Mac is linked closely to FaceTime - and while the latter is still a seperate application, video chats can be initiated from within Messages, saving the need to have both application open together.

Apple also announced a developer preview of Mac OS X 10.8 Lion, which will be available to buy in the summer and feature many applications and features adopted from iOS and specifically the iPad operating system.

Messages for Mac is available now in the Mac AppStore, but due to high demand the app is proving difficult to download at the time of writing.