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Windows Messenger Hits in XP Build This Week

Microsoft Corp. this week introduces what it hopes will define the next step in messaging clients.

The company unveiled Windows Messenger, a superset of MSN Messenger, on Monday. Microsoft is taking the messaging client, with its roots in text chat and audio, and expanding the paradigm to build in collaboration technology and video conferencing.

Microsoft plans to release an interim build of the Windows XP beta code this week to allow testers to try out the Windows Messenger. A broader test group will get to try the functionality when Release Candidate 1 of Windows XP drops, and the messenger will come standard in Windows XP when it ships Oct. 25, says Tom Laemmel, Windows product manager.

The announcement comes as Microsoft and AOL Corp. engage in on-again, off-again talks about including AOL in Windows XP. Microsoft's protests aside, Redmond appears to be coming after AOL's dominant Instant Messenger client with Windows Messenger. For example, Microsoft took pains to refer to the industry standards its client adheres to, a veiled criticism of AOL's proprietary approach.

But the client is also a lock-in for Windows XP. Windows Messenger will only work within the Windows XP operating system.

The MSN Messenger, included in previous test versions of Windows XP, has more than 30 million users, according to Microsoft. That client runs on several versions of Windows and will continue as a separate product.

Laemmel says a messaging infrastructure was built into Windows XP, accounting for the new messenger's being limited to that platform. Some of the operating system features that support Windows Messenger are audio echo cancellation technology to cut down on feedback in voice transmissions over open microphones and additional coders and decoders for all manner of transmission priority combinations.

The real-time collaboration functionality could elevate the client from a home-user product to a corporate staple.

"It's sort of the idea of a working meeting," Laemmel explains. "If you were working on one document together, say finalizing a budget, both people could be looking at the information at the same time and working on it."

The concept differs from the collaboration functionality Microsoft introduced last week in Office XP and SharePoint, because those technologies tend to focus on asynchronous collaboration. Teams create Web sites around a project and team members can work on documents individually and store them in a common area using SharePoint.

Some functionality in Windows Messenger addresses corporate needs. Additional steps have been put in place to make sure that a user really intends to cede control of a document in a shared work setting. Transmissions between the clients get encrypted.

Microsoft will require that consumers establish Passport accounts to locate one another. Corporations that don't want to allow that information past the firewall can set up their own locator via Exchange Server, Laemmel says. Whistler Server will also provide a locator service when it ships, he says.

The Windows Messenger clients shipping in Windows XP Home Edition and Windows XP Professional will be identical, although Laemmel expects the clients may diverge in the future as corporate types and consumers bring back differing requirements.

One possibility is resource kits for corporate adminsitrators. "We will definitely open up a lot more the ability to customize to corporate users, so that they would be able to just turn off video to all their machines," Laemmel says. "We know from experience that corporations like to have all that control."

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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