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MSN Messenger 6 gets public preview

MSN Messenger 6, available beginning today at 11 a.m. PDT from http://messenger.msn.com/download/v6preview.asp, helps users create their own online identities through customized display pictures, backgrounds and emoticons. They also can share more of themselves — silly or serious — with IM contacts by competing at live online games, sending photos to their friends, or sharing animated emoticons that breathe life into that sad old :). In addition, MSN Messenger 6 lets users connect in fresh, new ways — via a webcam, a multitude of mobile devices or a Tablet PC — while blocking spam and helping protect privacy.

“MSN Messenger 6 lets everyone create their own digital personality and play in a virtual playground with friends from around the block or around the world,” said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president for MSN. “Consumers told us they wanted a place to gather and have fun online, and we’ve delivered a hallmark example of MSN’s commitment to delivering the best communication services for consumers worldwide.”

Designing a Digital Self With MSN Messenger 6

IM lovers who are tired of generic interfaces and a lack of personalization features can let their individuality run wild with MSN Messenger 6. More than 30 new emoticons allow users to express their feelings graphically and, for the first time, through animated images, including a birthday cake with flickering candles, a happy face with a blinking eye, and a sad face that scrunches its eyes and cries droplets of tears. MSN Messenger also lets users take their IM experience to the next level by easily creating their own emoticons with any image they can create or upload.

MSN Messenger 6 also offers innovative features that allow users to do the following:

  • Choose a personalized background from a wealth of options such as cartoons, sports or international locations; create their own background from favorite photos or logos; and share favorite background themes with IM contacts
  • Select customized display pictures of their favorite pet or celebrities or other pictures to represent themselves to contacts
  • Choose from more than 150 fonts and 16 colors of type to represent their personal style
  • Save favorite IM conversations to a personal hard drive with just one click via message logging1

Within hours after downloading MSN Messenger 6, Max Wong, a senior product manager for a technology distribution company in New Zealand, personalized his IM interface by using a picture of his car, a red Nissan Silvia S15, as his display picture. As his personal background, he picked a picture of him and a group of friends from a recent dance party.

“I’m loving this new release,” Wong said in an IM conversation. “Personalizing is all-important as it allows you to inject your own look and feel to what could otherwise be a work tool. The same goes for other items I use every day, e.g., my car, my phone. It becomes a direct extension of my personality.”

MSN couldn’t have added the ability to save IM conversations at a better time for Ingra Ostheimer, a sergeant first class in the U.S. Army at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. Her husband, who is an Army staff sergeant, is currently stationed in Kuwait. “It is sentimental; sometimes he says something I want to be able to easily save so I can recall our conversations,” Ostheimer said in an IM conversation. “Now I can do this without having to cut and paste the message into a Word doc.”

She also was quick to begin using other personalization features. “It’s really easy to integrate your own pics onto the screen,” she said. Her display picture is of her dog, Sir Arthur, a 9-pound Shih Tzu.

Mike Montee, an eighth-grader at Sunridge Middle School in Pendleton, Ore., uses one word to describe MSN Messenger 6: “Tight.” What was the first personal emoticon he created? One with a picture of actress and model Carmen Electra.

In addition, to coincide with the availability of the preview version, MSN will launch a Messenger Preview Group. The group will launch with custom emoticons, backgrounds and display pictures for users of MSN Messenger 6 to download and share with others. By joining the group, users can upload their own custom elements and share them around the world. The group can be found at http://groups.msn.com/messengerv6beta/.

Sharing and Sharing Alike Through Instant Games and File Sharing

MSN Messenger 6 offers an innovative new service called Launch Site that lets users share more than verbal quips, LOLs and TTYLs. Launch Site offers interactive features that let users easily share their photos and other files, and play fast-paced games such as “Solitaire Showdown,” “Bejeweled” or “Minesweeper Flags” on a gaming window next to the IM interface. Other activity-oriented features include the Decision Wheel, which lets users spin a wheel with a contact to answer important questions, such as what movie to see on the weekend. The site will be updated when new games and activities are available.

The online games are one of Mike Montee’s brother Mitchell’s favorite features of MSN Messenger 6. “I can play with people like all over the place … and I can talk to them at the same time. … doesn’t get much better than that,” said Mitchell, a 10th-grader at Pendleton High School, during a recent IM conversation.

“I beat him like 10–1 on Tic Tac Toe,” Mike responded during the same IM conversation.

“I let him win,” Mitchell replied.

Other sharing features and improvements enable users to do the following:

  • Share files easier and faster through many firewalls and network configurations
  • Preview thumbnails of images and pictures in the conversation window before deciding if they want to download the full image

Taking IM to the Next Level With Live Video

When typed words and emoticons just aren’t enough, MSN Messenger 6 lets users send live video of themselves and view live video of their contacts during IM conversations. The integrated webcam feature, powered by Logitech, is available to all MSN Messenger users with a webcam and works even if only one contact has a webcam so the other person can still see the video they’re sending. Above all it’s easy to find and set up through the Webcam button on the toolbar.

Wong is about to begin a one-year extended vacation in Ireland, and hopes to use the webcam feature in MSN Messenger 6 to help ensure his family doesn’t forget what he looks like. “Often words alone cannot capture the true meanings being shared between parties,” Wong said.

MSN Messenger 6 provides customers with increased communication and safety options:

  • They can send and receive text messages over a cell phone or personal digital assistant or receive messages on an MSN Direct watch.2
  • Users can send handwritten “inked” messages from a Tablet PC to any other contact that is using MSN Messenger 6.
  • They can block spam and help protect young users with MSN 8 parental controls.3

Greater Global Interest in MSN Messenger Than Ever

The preview version of MSN Messenger 6 is available in 26 languages. The final version of the service will be available in those same languages.

MSN Messenger 6 is primed to become the biggest, most popular release ever, judging from early consumer excitement and the growing popularity of MSN Messenger. More than 2 million people have already downloaded an early version of MSN Messenger 6. Also, the IM service has experienced dramatic growth in the last year, surpassing the milestone of 100 million active users globally this spring. In addition, MSN Messenger recently was the No. 1 free instant messaging service in 12 countries, the most markets in which MSN Messenger has simultaneously held the top spot.4 No other free IM service tops as many markets.

“At least once a month, roughly 60 percent of the world’s population uses one of MSN’s many services and offerings,” Mehdi said. “If the momentum for MSN and MSN Messenger, as well as the immense buzz that’s building around the new version, are any indication, MSN Messenger 6 is well on its way to becoming a global phenomenon.”