MS: Want Windows Live Messenger? Pay.

The only thing hotter than the Xbox 360 this holiday season may be invites to join the Windows Live Messenger beta test. Thankfully, Microsoft has a recommendation for those who can't wait for access to the latest bits: pay for an invitation on eBay.

Microsoft's new instant messaging client is in private beta, but users are granted a limited number of invitations for friends and family -- similar to the approach Google took with Gmail. In response, eager Messenger fans have begun to leave their e-mail all over the Web hoping someone grants them an invite.

Windows Live Messenger, which replaces MSN Messenger, includes features such as offline messages and PC-to-phone calls. File transfers are beefed up through online drop boxes called "Sharing Folders" that actually store the data on a Microsoft server.

And just as eBay has become a primary marketplace for those looking to pick up scarce Xbox 360 consoles, invitations to Windows Live Messenger are being auctioned as well. Bidding has reached upwards of $40 simply to get a peek at Microsoft's newest IM client.

"If you must get an invite and you don't mind spending some money on it check out the auctions here," says the Live Messenger team. "The Messenger team has a pool going to guess what the highest selling point will be."

Microsoft says it may setup a waiting list for the beta, but has made no official announcement. Not everyone will be able to take advantage of the new offering, however; Windows Live Messenger will only work on Windows XP.

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