Yahoo Readies New Messenger

The next-gen release will support Windows Vista.

Yahoo is working on a next-generation version of its Messenger product designed specifically for Microsofts upcoming Windows Vista operating system.

The Yahoo team has used the Windows Presentation Foundation framework to build dynamic features on top of Yahoo Messengers core communications features, said Jeff Bonforte, Yahoos senior director for Real Time Communications.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., company will use International CES in Las Vegas Jan. 8-11 to preview the product and announce its road map. The current plan is to have the public beta available in the second quarter, with the final release expected by the end of the year, Matthew Skyrm, director of product management for Yahoo Messenger, told eWeek.

Yahoo also plans to launch a Messenger blog in the near future, where users will be able to share their feedback with the company, Skyrm said.

Given that most new computers will start shipping with Vista following its consumer release Jan. 29, the team started planning for a version of Messenger for Vista well in advance. The team started talking to Microsoft and looking at Vista about a year ago, "and we quickly realized that todays Yahoo Messenger, which is optimized for Windows XP, would not feel completely at home in the Windows Vista environment," Skyrm said.

Yahoo also decided that "a new coat of paint isnt really going to cut it if we want to wow users, and so we decided to work closely with Microsoft and build Yahoo Messenger for Vista," he said.

That new version will have a new cinematic user interface and visual design and will be optimized around the new experience that Vista brings, Skyrm said, noting that this supports the teams philosophy of providing products that "live and breathe in the operating systems that our users choose." In line with that philosophy, Yahoo last year released a beta of its Messenger for the latest Mac OS X operating system.

The new Yahoo Messenger for Vista will include existing features such as text, instant messaging, interoperability with Windows Live Messenger users, emoticons, avatars and voice.

"These are all there to ensure compatibility across our products. Not only will we continue to offer the existing Yahoo Messenger product that is optimized for Windows XP, but we will also continue to enhance that as we want all users to have the best experience possible with our product," Skyrm said.

Brad Goldberg, general manager for the Windows Client business group at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., welcomed the move, which he said will provide "a truly engaging communications experience" with Vista.

"Yahoo Messenger for Windows Vista will clearly deliver the wow moments that fulfill the promise of Microsofts new operating system," Goldberg said. Microsoft has dubbed the Jan. 29 consumer release of Windows Vista and Office 2007 "The Wow Starts Now."

Skyrm said that while the XP version might not have the full cinematic UI, some of the core communication features necessary to ensure compatibility across the products would be implemented in both.

Asked about the competitive front, Skyrm said this product "is all about the experience. In this case, our focus was to take the core communication features and make sure that we had a Vista-optimized interface and experience around them. Over time, we may also come up with some unique features that have not been seen before, but that was not the primary focus for this particular product."

However, Yahoo Messenger for Vista will bring new features and innovations, including a custom gadget that takes advantage of Vistas Windows Sidebar feature, which is on by default.

This allows users to keep close tabs on their friends and family by dragging and dropping that icon into the sidebar. That icon then becomes part of the sidebar and is permanently displayed, Skyrm said.