Microsoft Readies Integrated Messenger

Microsoft Corp. last week announced the inclusion of its reworked real-time communications technology, Windows Messenger.

Microsoft Corp. last week announced the inclusion of its reworked real-time communications technology, Windows Messenger, in the forthcoming Windows XP operating system.

While core technical XP beta testers will get the first look at the repackaged Windows Messenger technology in an interim release, Windows Messenger will be broadly available to all testers when the first XP release candidate is made available in several weeks, said Greg Sullivan, lead project manager for XP, in Redmond, Wash.

While Windows Messenger goes beyond pure instant messaging, allowing text, chat, video, audio and telephony services, it does in some ways take direct aim at rival AOL Time Warner Inc.

However, Sullivan said Microsofts goal is not to take on AOL. "This is a whole new communications category. Its not just about instant messaging, its about unlocking the entire capability of your PC and the Internet to communicate," he said.

Windows Messenger is the unification of the communications technology that has been in Windows for some time now. What is essentially different is that by unifying communications services, Microsoft has now made Windows Messenger easier to use, officials said.

The quality has been improved, with a lot of "plumbing work" done around improving audio and video components, officials said. The platform is now more extensible for third parties to build on the back of it.

Testers who have been dabbling with beta releases of XP that have included MSN Messenger agree that Windows Messenger is just a new name for a set of existing and previously bundled XP beta technologies.

Microsoft has been bundling MSN Messenger with XP for months; MSN Messenger is part of the MSN Explorer consumer browser thats integrated into beta versions of XP, as well as part of Internet Explorer 6.0, the general-purpose browser Microsoft has integrated into XP betas.

The Remote Assistance technology that is part of Windows Messenger has also been part of all the recent XP beta builds. Another technology that Microsoft has been bundling into Windows for some time, its NetMeeting videoconferencing software, is seemingly part of Windows Messenger. At the same time, Microsoft has been developing a real-time communications subsystem, code-named Phoenix, within XP that includes a new, souped-up phone dialer, among other telephony-related capabilities. Like MSN Messenger, Remote Assistance and NetMeeting, Phoenix has been part of recent XP beta builds and is included in the Windows Messenger client.

NetMeeting seems to have no future outside of MSN Messenger/Windows Messenger, according to one of Microsofts NetMeeting MVPs (Most Valuable Professionals). MVPs are non-Microsoft employees handpicked by the company to help support its products.