Windows Live Messenger Beta to Begin

Microsoft this week is beginning wider beta testing of Windows Live Messenger, which will succeed MSN Messenger as the company's primary communications client for consumers. Microsoft is taking the Gmail approach for the beta: invitations were sent out to a handful of testers, who can later invite their friends.

Beta versions of Windows Live Messenger have already begun surfacing on the Web, but Microsoft has learned from past leaks and is restricting login access to those who are registered for the program. Later this month, the beta will expand as users are granted invites to send out.

"It's as fun and reliable as the Messenger you already know, and you lets you keep the contact list and other personal stuff you've got stored in Messenger. Plus, this new version has a fresh new look and feel, and lets you do things you've never done with Messenger before," Microsoft wrote in an e-mail to testers.

Some of the new features in Windows Live Messenger include international PC-to-telephone calls and online drop boxes called "Sharing Folders" for sending files to users that actually store the data on a Microsoft server.

"You will be able to create a Sharing Folder by simply dragging files onto a contact name in Messenger. This will create an exact copy of the files on both you and your contact's computers, and create a Sharing Folder that can be accessed from Messenger, and on the desktop," Microsoft explains.

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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