Late yesterday, Microsoft announced three updated MSN services that are designed to make email, instant messaging (IM), and online sharing more integrated experiences. The updated services include a public beta of MSN Spaces, the company's new blogging software; a public beta of MSN Messenger 7.0, its upcoming IM software revision; and updates to MSN Hotmail that make the world's most-used Web-based email service more compelling.
  
"As widely used as our individual services are today, we know we can do more to help our customers communicate across the different modes they use, like blogs, instant messaging, and email," Blake Irving, corporate vice president for the MSN Communication Services and Member Platform Group, said. "The investments MSN is making in MSN Spaces, MSN Messenger, and MSN Hotmail are designed to break down some of the barriers between the services so people can focus less on the technology and more on the people they care about."
  
According to Microsoft, MSN Spaces is designed to make creating blog-based Web sites easy; previously, blog solutions were designed for a limited market of technical users and early adopters. In addition to typical text-posting capabilities, the service offers scrapbooking-like features such as the ability to share photos and favorite playlists from MSN Music; different access permissions levels such as public, MSN Messenger contacts only, and private; and remote posting via email or mobile phone. The final version of MSN Spaces is expected in June and will remain a free service. If you're interested in trying out the new service during the beta, you can sign up on the MSN Spaces Web site.
  
Also available to all interested users is a public beta of MSN Messenger 7.0, which adds nudge and wink alerts, new gleaming notifications when contacts update their MSN Spaces, an MSN Search tab, and better control over online status. Microsoft expects to ship the final version of MSN Messenger 7.0 next year. You can download the beta from MSN Messenger Web site .
  
MSN Hotmail recently introduced 250MB inboxes to new customers while the service is in the process of converting existing customers to the higher storage allotment. In tandem with today's MSN Spaces and MSN Messenger 7.0 announcements, Microsoft added two new features to MSN Hotmail. The first feature lets Hotmail users see when contacts who use Web Messenger, the Web-based version of MSN Messenger, are online. The second feature gives MSN Hotmail users one-click access to the MSN Spaces their contacts use.