MSN Messenger users woke up to new and improved messaging software on Tuesday thanks to the formal launch of Microsoft's new Windows Live Messenger.
The instantcommunication program originally released as a beta in April is available as a free download to MSN Messenger's nearly million users around the world and of course to anybody else.
It is among the first of Microsoft's new line of Live products designed to offer Webbased services that compete against similar offerings from Google and Yahoo.
"The launch of Windows Live Messenger represents a significant 'down payment' on the Windows Live vision and an important milestone for the business" said Martin Taylor corporate vice president of Windows Live and MSN.
"We're proud and excited to release this product to consumers" he said.
The Messenger makeover is not just skin deep. The application comes with several new features including new Voice over IP (VoIP) functions that enable users to make free PCtoPC calls as well as lowcost calls from PCs to traditional telephone numbers.
Those who want to see and hear the person on the other end of the line can do so using the service's videoconferencing features that work in conjunction with just about any webcam on the market.
Microsoft's own LifeCams announced last week are optimized for use with Windows Live Messenger.
Other features include new virtualcollaboration capabilities such as draganddrop filesharing. Users can share Word files and photos for example simply by dragging and dropping the files onto a contact's name.
"Windows Live is all about giving consumers the tools and services they need to be in control as they stay connected to the people they care about" Taylor said.
Livening It Up
Although Microsoft is the global leader in instant messaging according to Nielsen//NetRatings in the U.S. it lags behind AOL's AIM and must compete with Yahoo Instant Messenger and Google Talk all of which offer similar functionality.
According to Jennifer Simpson a Yankee Group analyst what stands out in Windows Live Messenger is the level of integration with Windows and the new collaborative tools the application provides.
"Microsoft is trying to make it very easy for the customer to use the features" Simpson said. "Consumers will use the draganddrop filesharing just because it's so easy."