Microsoft Corp. today announced that the new Windows Live™ Messenger beta is available broadly to the public for download at the Windows Live Ideas Web site. The beta of Windows Live Messenger, which is the next generation of MSN® Messenger, the most widely used instant messaging service with more than 230 million customers worldwide, includes customer-driven feature enhancements that make it even easier for consumers to stay in touch with the people and information that matter most to them.
Some of the new features are:
- Windows Live Call with Verizon Web Calling service. With one click, users can go directly to the Windows Live Call feature and, through the Verizon Web Calling service, place affordable outbound local voice calls and domestic or international long-distance voice calls over the Internet. Service is already offered to Messenger customers in five countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Spain. As of next week, this calling service will be available in localized languages and currencies for six new markets — Austria, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands — giving more customers more ways to communicate with the people that matter most to them.
- Cordless phones designed exclusively for Windows Live Messenger. Beginning today, customers will be able to purchase phones from Uniden Corp. and in the coming weeks from Philips that make Windows Live Call available through the handset, which can be used to make landline and Internet phone calls. Consumers can use their cordless phones from anywhere in the home, even while away from the PC.
- Windows Live Contacts. Contact information is always current with Windows Live Contacts in Windows Live Messenger; users choose which contacts they want updated automatically. Windows Live Contacts are integrated and accessible across Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Mail and MSN Spaces.
- Unified contacts. Customers now have the ability to see and search all their contacts with the unified contact list accessible through Windows Live Messenger. Users can have up to 600 contacts, and easily search using the word wheel feature, which automatically sorts the contact list.
- Sharing Folders. By simply dragging and dropping their files and personal photos of any size to their Windows Live Messenger window, customers can share them with family, friends and colleagues.
- Offline instant message (IM). Customers can now send an IM to their offline contacts, who will receive the IM the next time they log in.
- Video conversation. The free synchronized audio and video service in Windows Live Messenger, powered by Logitech International SA, allows customers to view and talk to their friends through their PCs in full-screen video with one push of a button using the webcams and broadband Internet connections.
This is pretty much what one would expect of a current generation IM service, but I have to observe that Microsoft is setting up yet another distinct contacts repository with uncertain compatibility and synchronization with all the others that exist.