MSN Chats Up Messenger 6

As Microsoft begins to beta test version 5 of Windows Messenger, which is aimed at business communication, the company is also prepping a major upgrade to MSN Messenger sporting more consumer oriented features.

MSN Messenger 6 brings an overhauled user interface that matches the new MSN browser. New gaming functionality enables users to play games such as checkers and double solitaire from within the Messenger client (screenshot).

"MSN delivers innovative technology such as Shared Browsing with MSN Messenger today, and it will raise the bar further with exciting new services when we unveil our next version this summer," said Lisa Gurry, group product manager for MSN.

Building upon the client's video and voice features, MSN Messenger 6 will integrate directly with webcams to display live pictures of buddies while chatting (screenshot). Windows XP users can also take advantage of video conferencing functionality with synchronized audio and picture.

MSN Messenger 6 is expected to debut in July alongside MSN 8.5, Microsoft's stopgap release on the road to MSN 9. AOL took a similar approach with the release of AOL 8.0 Plus and is currently testing an additional pre-9.0 upgrade code-named "Blue Hawaii."

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