On Tuesday, Microsoft shipped Windows Live Messenger, an IM application that is replacing MSN Messenger, and the first deliverable from the company's wide-reaching set of Windows Live services. Windows Live Messenger combines traditional IM features with free PC-to-PC phone calls, inexpensive PC-to-telephone calls, video conferencing, and simple file sharing.

"The launch of Windows Live Messenger represents a significant 'down payment' on the Windows Live vision and an important milestone for the business," says Martin Taylor, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows Live and MSN. "We're proud and excited to release this product to consumers, who have helped shape the service during our beta process so we could deliver an experience that unifies their online communications experience across voice, video, sharing, and more."

Like other IM applications, Windows Live Messenger offers text, voice, and video chat services. Microsoft added numerous features to the new release, many of which blur the line between online communications and more traditional person-to-person communication methods. For example, you can now use a growing number of cordless telephones from companies such as Uniden, Philips, and Motorola to make phone calls from your PC to other Windows Live Messenger contacts using VoIP technologies. Windows Live Messenger also supports PC-to-telephone calling, with international support, via the new Verizon Web Calling service.

Windows Live Messenger supports a new feature called Sharing Folders, which makes it easier to share files with your contacts via peer-to-peer (P2P) technology. And thanks to integration with Windows Live Contacts, your contacts' personal information is always up to date: When contacts change their phone number, address, or other information, your contacts list is automatically updated. Windows Live Messenger also integrates with other Windows Live services, including Windows Live Search, Windows Live Local, Windows Live Mail, and MSN Spaces (which, I presume, will be rebranded with a Windows Live moniker in the near future).

Windows Live Messenger is available in 42 markets, 21 languages, and is free. You can find out more about Windows Live Messenger on the Microsoft Web site.

http://get.live.com/messenger/overview