Windows Live Messenger Beta now available for download

I thought I would pass along the news that Microsoft has released the beta for the next version of Windows Live Messenger and you can try it out right now!

There are a ton of new features are available and the new default experience feels very different.  Of course you can go back to the compact view which is largely the same as you have been using for years but the cool features are when you use the full view.

When you install it, you are encouraged to hook it up to your Facebook and Myspace accounts so that you can get your stuff on Windows Live Messenger.  You are able to see what your friends are doing, the things you have posted blog posts your friends have written and even links they have shared.  The social networking experience is quite nice.  There is also a big emphasis on MSN as well.  You are able to check out news, sports, weather, celeb news and much more all with a mouse click or two.  It is quite a nice experience.  Also, every section has a bing search bar located at the top.  When you do a search with the search bar, it will open up the results page in your default browser which is nice rather than trying to fit the page in the Windows Live Messenger window.  The emoticons in the chat have also been given a facelift and look quite nice.  One of the other major features is HD video chat which I assume is meant to work with owners of Kinect since that was one of the talked about features at E3.

Now there are a couple of observations that I have made about the new version that I don’t really care for.  When you use the default view rather than the compact or classic view, it feels like chat is no longer the focus of the application as your chat contacts are forced into a small box in the upper right hand corner of the window while all of the social network and MSN stuff is given priority.  My other major gripe is that your online status (online, away, busy, appear offline, ect.) are jammed into the upper right corner near the window controls so that it isn’t something that gets much attention.  Next to that is the button to get to your hotmail inbox and since I access my email more than social networking features or MSN content, I find it kind of annoying it is being downplayed to this extent.  My final gripe as of this time (I have barely had a chance to use it so this is more of my initial thoughts) is that next to the inbox button, there is this tiny icon that it isn’t real apparent what it is for until you hover over it to discover that is how you get back to the compact view that you have come to know and love over the past many years.

All complaints aside, this seems to be a great upgrade for the product and I highly recommend checking it out if you are a Windows Live Messenger user.  One note though, is that it is only available for Windows 7 and Vista users (sorry XP users).  Perhaps you now have a reason to upgrade for those still clinging to XP.  Anyway, you can head here to download it and give it a shot!  (WARNING:  A reboot is required!)