Silicon Valley Sleuth has gotten hold of a beta of Windows Messenger Live. Being in a sharing mood, I've posted some pictures below (click on the image to get a larger version).
The new version has two major new features: PC-to-phone voice calls (dubbed 'Windows Live Call') and the delivery of messages to offline contacts when the come online.
While all the traditional messaging features were working fine, the beta failed when I tested the two new ones. Let it be noted however that this is a beta and therefore users should expect the software to have some glitches.
The beta only works for a registered, pre-qualified user names. Effectively, I was forced to use a passport account that had been approved for the beta programme and couldn't use the account I normally use. So even if you would get a hold of this beta, you'll be unable to use it.
Voice calls to regular telephone numbers work for users in the US and UK only for now. Microsoft is using MCI Web Calling (these folks used to be called Worldcom, but changed their name after it turned out that they couldn't keep their greedy hands out of the
candy money jar). The service works identical to Skype-out: users add calling credits ($5, $10 or $25) and then get to place phone calls at a discounted rate ($0.023 per minute to the US/Europe).
Testing the voice service, my firewall warned that my computer was under attack and blocked the service. The test failed also with the firewall and all other security features turned off.
On to the delivery of "offline messages". This feature has been available in AIM for some time now but is new to Windows Messenger. The service is supposed to save messages that I send to offline contacts and deliver them when they sign on. But in my test none of the offline messages would be delivered.
Another new feature is the ability to send basic drawing, for those users who have mastered the art of drawing with a computer mouse (as you can see, I'm not one of those). This works fine when sending messages between the beta and Windows Messenger 4.7, but fails with the Trillian unified messenger.
Left: beta messenger window, right: recipient in Messenger 4.7.
Final verdict: Microsoft has to spend much more time at the drawing board. This is in beta for a good reason.
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