First impressions of the Windows Live Messenger Beta

This content is 18 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Windows Live Messenger

Since last week, I’ve been using the new Windows Live Messenger Beta (formerly MSN Messenger 8) and I’m really impressed.

The main new feature is the integration of Windows Live Call VOIP technology, courtesy of Microsoft’s link up with MCI, combined with increased customisation and improved document sharing capabilities.

I particularly like the new interface (shown below); however the main improvement for me (after just a few days) is the ability to send messages to my contacts when they are offline (although one of my colleagues did wryly comment that’s what e-mail is for).

Windows Live Messenger Beta - new interface

Windows Live Messenger Beta - new interface

Meanwhile, I’ve also heard reports of an MSN Messenger 8 virus (Virkel-F). Along with various news sources (although I can’t find anything on the Symantec or Sophos sites) F-Secure is reporting that there is a new virus posing as an invitation to join the MSN Messenger 8 Working Beta.

The problem compounded by the fact that, as the screenshot below shows, the Windows Live Messenger Beta does include references to itself as Messenger 8.0 BETA. Furthermore, I was given the opportunity (through a link within the product) to invite five friends to join the beta and even though the e-mail invitation links to a Microsoft site to download the product, it’s still confusing to end users.

Windows Live Messenger Beta - still refers to MSN Messenger 8.0

One thing’s for sure. Microsoft’s Windows Live products need to be good. Google is launching new products almost by the day and as I’m writing this, Google’s plans for online dominance are even featuring on the BBC’s 10 O’Clock News, as the broadcaster refers to Google as “innovative and extremely focused” and commenting that “Google is challenging [Microsoft’s] dominance, and it shows”. Meanwhile, today’s Windows IT Pro magazine network WinInfo Daily Update quotes Bill Gates as seeing IBM as Microsoft’s most significant threat, stating that “IBM has always been our biggest competitor. The press just doesn’t like to write about IBM”. It’s true, Apple and Google are the media darlings of the moment, although as Google’s dominance continues to grow, one has to wonder if they too will fall foul of industry regulators as someone complains about their software bundling.

Pocket MSN… so that is what happened to MSN Messenger on Windows Mobile 5.0

This content is 19 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Keni Barwick commented recently that he was worried about MSN Messenger having gone AWOL from Windows Mobile 5.0. The answer it seems is Pocket MSN. Microsoft wants to charge a one-off fee of £10.99 to use MSN Messenger on a mobile device.

As I commented on Keni’s blog, I tend to agree that if MSN Messenger were to be removed from smartphones then that would be a pretty dumb move (from one of the smartest marketing companies in the world), and without it the whole presence element of Microsoft’s mobility strategy starts to fall apart. Microsoft are claiming that 20% of all enterprise users make use of instant messaging (IM) services (either for business, or because their company allows it) and that this is expected to rise to 80% by the end of 2008 – not surprisingly, they want a piece of this market.

I’m reliably informed that the reason for public IM connectivity in Live Communications Server (LCS) 2005 being chargeable is because AOL, MSN, and Yahoo! require Microsoft Corporation (remember, MSN is a separate company) to subsidise them for lost advertising revenues where companies use the Windows Messenger and Office Communicator (ad-free) clients with LCS. Of course, as there are no ads in the mobile version of MSN Messenger, perhaps that is the justification for charging for that too?

Of course, charging for IM could be about opening up the mobile device market to other IM clients in an attempt to avoid landing themselves in court for allegedly behaving in an an anti-competitive manner. After all, it seems that the European Union (EU) is taking Microsoft’s dominant market position more seriously than the US Department of Justice (DoJ).

New messaging and collaboration tools from Microsoft

This content is 19 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

I’m yet to be convinced of the business benefits of instant messaging (IM). My current employer doesn’t prohibit IM – in fact it is encouraged – I use Microsoft’s MSN Messenger service, as do many of my colleagues. I suspect the reason we that we haven’t implemented a corporate IM solution is cost.

According to IT Week, research conducted by Telewest business has found that due to security concerns only a third of UK companies allow staff access to IM. Many other companies are still deciding what their corporate messaging policy should be, but with the rising incidence of spam over IM (spim), ignorance of IM is no longer an option.

For those large enterprises that do allow IM, using the free services from Microsoft, Yahoo!, AOL and others are simply not an option (in fact they are a liability) and if IM is to become a business tool, a corporate IM infrastructure needs to be provided. For many years, Microsoft has produced a variety of chat-like products under the Exchange Server banner, but they were removed from Exchange Server 2003 and replaced with a new product – Microsoft Office Live Communications Server (LCS) 2005, which provides corporates with IM and presence capabilities.

Earlier this month, Microsoft revealed their vision for collaboration with a new product on the horizon – Microsoft Office Communicator 2005 (previously codenamed Istanbul) – supporting all of the current IM capabilities plus PC-to-phone integration and “rich presence awareness” (the ability to route calls by the most appropriate medium – fixed-line, mobile or IP voice, IM, e-mail, video or web conferencing). Microsoft will back up Office Communicator with a service pack for LCS due later this month and including enhancements such as IM spam (spim) controls, auditing (to address regulatory concerns), compatibility with Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), HTTPS access (removing the need for VPN connections) and public IM connectivity (the ability to communicate with MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger clients). Alongside all of this, is Microsoft Office Live Meeting 2005, an upgrade to Microsoft’s web conferencing service, offering call controls for audio conference service providers and the ability to conduct live meeting sessions within Microsoft Office (in the UK this made available as a hosted service from BT, with per-minute, named user or per-seat tariffs – there is a Flash-based demonstration on the BT website).

Taken together with related initiatives, such as Exchange 12, which is expected to manage PBX-based phone messages, and the constantly increasing collaboration functionality within the Microsoft Office System, Microsoft’s efforts are wide-ranging and long-term.

The new face of spam

This content is 19 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

We are all used to spam arriving in our e-mail inboxes, but now the problem is spreading to other communications methods.

Research by Wireless Services Corporation shows almost half of the mobile phone text messages received in the US are spam, compared with 18% a year ago. Another problem is the growing menace of spam over instant messaging (spim), with Meta Group reporting 28% of instant messaging users hit by spim.

Meanwhile, IT managers are turning to new methods of trapping e-mail-born spam at the network edge. According to e-mail security provider Postini, 88% of e-mail is spam and Symantec reports 70% (their Brightmail Antispam product is used by ASPs such as MessageLabs) with 80% from overseas, particularly China and Russia. Appliance servers are now available that claim to trap “dark traffic” such as unwanted inbound SMTP traffic, directory harvest and e-mail denial of service (DoS) attacks, malformed and invalid recipient addresses.

Last month, Microsoft acquired Sybari and according to IT Week, the Sybari tools are likely to be offered as a plug in for the virus-scanning API in Exchange Server 2003 service pack 1, as well as part of Microsoft’s plans to offer edge services in forthcoming Exchange Server releases, including Sender ID e-mail authentication in Exchange Server service pack 2, IP safe lists, and a requirement for senders to solve a computational puzzle for each e-mail sent, increasing overheads for spammers (and unfortunately for the rest of us too).

Some industry commentators criticise the use of filtering products, citing examples of blocked legitimate e-mail. Sadly this will always be the case (one of my wife’s potential customers once claimed that her domain name is invalid, blocking all addresses containing hyphens) and many of my clients (wisely, if in a somewhat draconian style in some cases) block various attachment types. A few weeks back, even a reply which I sent to a request for assistance left on this blog was picked up as spam. There will always be a trade off between false positives and a small amount of spam getting through – what is needed is for a real person to double check the filtered e-mail, combined with an overall increase in the use of digitally signed e-mail.


Practical measures for combating spam (MessageLabs)

MSN Web Messenger

This content is 20 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

I often work on client site behind a firewall which doesn’t allow instant messaging (IM) traffic through and want to chat with my mates (of course, I really mean “discuss business with colleagues elsewhere on the ‘net!”).

Now Microsoft have come up with an answer in the shape of MSN Web Messenger. There are alternatives, that have been around for longer, like eMessenger and some of my colleagues have expressed concern that Microsoft will now take over the niche that eMessenger had found, but personally I prefer the MSN Web interface, which closely matches the full client interface.