Microsoft is rolling out an update to its MSN Messenger instant messaging client which bundles in the MSN Toolbar browser add-on.
MSN Messenger 6.2 offers several improvements, including an autocorrect feature for emoticons, a connection troubleshooter and changes in the contact list display to make it easier to identify contacts using a mobile device.
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Microsoft will also bundle its MSN Toolbar with the Messenger update. During the installation of MSN Messenger 6.2, users will be asked if they want to install the toolbar, which is the default setting.
The MSN Toolbar adds a bar with shortcuts to MSN websites and MSN Messenger to the user's IE web browser. It also blocks pop-up ads, offers search functionality and a highlighting feature to make it easier to search web pages. Google and Yahoo offer rival toolbars with similar functionality.
The MSN Toolbar has been downloaded more than 1.2 million times since it was made available in January. Usage of the toolbar is likely to shoot up thanks to the bundling with MSN Messenger, which Microsoft said has more than 120 million unique users a month.
Although Microsoft has been criticised in the past for bundling products, this time it is likely that it will not face any complaints from customers, said Michael Gartenberg, vice-president and research director at Jupiter Research.
"As long they make it an option to install the toolbar, I think Microsoft is OK in the sense that they are not going to spark any wrath among users," he said. "Suppliers will use all the tools at their disposal to get users to adopt their technologies."
Microsoft, however, is not alone. Yahoo also bundles its toolbar with the Yahoo Messenger, Gartenberg noted.
The Messenger update is gradually being made available on MSN sites around the world and should be widely available next week.
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service