MSN Instant-Messaging Client Nears Beta

Release 7 will showcase some of Microsoft's threedegrees messaging features, which the company has been honing for years.

MSN is preparing to release to testers the first beta of its MSN Messenger 7 instant-messaging client next week.

Testers in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Korea and Netherlands are on the tester list.

MSN is planning a broader beta to go out later this year. The target date for the final is early 2005, company officials said.

With MSN Messenger 7, Microsoft will be integrating some of the features from its threedegrees IM product. The threedegrees team has been laboring for a couple of years on an IM product catering to the teen—or as Microsoft has characterized it, the "NetGen"—market. The threedegrees product has been in beta for more than a year.

The NeoWin Windows enthusiast site on Wednesday reported some of the features expected to debut in next weeks MSN Messenger beta. Among these are the "winks" and "nudges" Microsoft pioneered with threedegrees. Winks and nudges are animations that help grab other IM users attention.

MSN also said to expect other IM personalization features to debut in the MSN Messenger 7 release, including:

  • Contact cards (which sound somewhat like the electronic business cards that are featured in the MSN Office Interconnect service that Microsoft recently introduced in Japan);
  • New "Display Pictures" capabilities: MSN Messenger 7 users will be able to display pictures in more areas of their IM windows;
  • The ability to set status before log-on, allowing users to choose how they "appear" before signing on to IM. One new option will be the ability to log in but appear to be offline.

MSN is touting other new features for its next IM client release, as well, including tighter integration with MSN Search. A search bar will be included at the bottom of each IM client. Users also will be able to search within an IM conversation by highlighting a word and right-clicking on it.

MSN also plans to add more "value-added transactional services," such as avatars and emoticon packs for more markets. MSN has already introduced these kinds of features in Korea and the United Kingdom. With MSN Messenger 7, MSN will add the United States and France to the list of supported countries and will add new, purchasable background and display picture offerings, too.


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