Microsoft Releases MSN Messenger 7, MSN Spaces
by Arie Slob
Hello Windows users,
This week, Microsoft began rolling out the latest versions of MSN Messenger and MSN Spaces (a blogging service) in markets around the world.
MSN Messenger 7.0
According to Microsoft, these are the main new features:
- Free PC-to-PC video conversation. The new, free MSN Video Conversation service, connects people with one-click synchronized audio and video (Figure), and offers full-screen video viewing (Figure).
- Ability to talk over the Internet for free. MSN Messenger 7.0 includes higher-quality audio functionality so you can enjoy free, real-time PC-to-PC voice conversations with friends and family around the world.
- PC-to-mobile communications. MSN Messenger 7.0 users will soon be able to stay in touch by sending IMs to friends and family who aren't on their PC. In selected countries you'll be able to send SMS text messages from MSN Messenger to mobile phones - even if the person they are sending to doesn't have an MSN Messenger account - and the mobile user can reply to the MSN Messenger user. This feature will be available in multiple markets this spring.
- Greater personalization. New personalization options, including Winks, Dynamic Display Pictures and theme packs, help you to show your personality and mood. You can choose from a selection of free content or get premium content from companies such as AG Interactive, the media subsidiary of American Greetings Corp., Wisepost/YNK, 3H Group PTY Ltd., Saw-you.com and Techno Design Internet Programming for a small fee.
- Instant MSN Search capability. MSN Messenger 7.0 offers a Shared Search button in the conversation window so you can find answers instantly through MSN Search while continuing your conversation (Figure).
- Unique presence options. You can now display a personal message alongside your Messenger name and status (Figure). The customized message can include a greeting that expresses your mood or show the name of a song you are listening to on Windows Media Player or iTunes Player.
- Photo-sharing options. You can have more fun with your friends by sharing photos during a conversation and viewing a slide show together. You can save shared photos and add pictures of your own to the photo swap session.
I played a bit with this new version... let me tell you: "Winks" are an annoyance! They are just a bunch of (mostly) ugly and distracting animations that "play" in the main conversation window. Luckily you can switch off the "Auto-Play" function of these. You'll just receive notice of the Wink, with a link to play it manually if you want.
What's neat is the drag 'n drop for backgrounds; instead of going through folders trying to locate the picture you want to use, just drop it on the main window, and it will be set as new background.
You can also select to see the last few exchanges from a previous Instant Message (IM) session when starting a new conversation with the same contact.
The option to set your status before signing in also comes in handy (Figure).
MSN Messenger 7 is quite a resource hog though... I noted a peak memory usage of over 72 MB and a page file (swap file) usage of 46 MB (after using the webcam functionality & doing the stuff to be able to take the screenshots included here).
If you want to give it a try, here are the minimum system requirements:
- Multimedia PC
- Pentium 233-MHz processor or better (500MHz recommended)
- Microsoft Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows Millennium, or Windows XP operating system
- Minimum 64 MB of RAM (128 MB recommended)
- Up to 50 MB of hard disk space needed to install - after install, up to 15 MB may be needed
- 256-color VGA or higher resolution graphics card (SVGA recommended)
- Minimum 800x600 screen resolution
- Microsoft Internet Explorer version 6 SP1 or later must be installed on your computer, though it does not need to be your default browser
You can download MSN Messenger 7 from the MSN Messenger Web site [7 MB].
MSN Spaces, a blogging service, is available in 15 languages and 30 markets worldwide. MSN Spaces enables people to connect on their own time, and letting friends and family know they have something new to share via notifications on their MSN Messenger contact list. MSN Spaces is a dynamic online scrapbook where you can easily post blogs, photo albums, personal music lists and more. You control whom you share your Space with: limiting it to a few, sharing only with those on your MSN Messenger contact list, or opening it up to the worldwide Internet.
MSN has updated the storage space of each Space to 30 MB, according to Microsoft enough for 750 photos. For more information about MSN Spaces, please visit the MSN Spaces Web site.
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