Microsoft has started beta testing a Windows Live Messenger service that includes features such as voice over IP.
The limited public beta is the first move by Microsoft to revamp its existing MSN Messenger instant messaging service, which at the moment simply allows users to share short live messages over the internet.
Microsoft demonstrated a preview of Windows Live Messenger at the beginning of last month, with Microsoft chief software architect Bill Gates saying it was part of Microsoft’s strategy to make available more on-demand internet-based services to consumers and businesses.
To deliver the voice over IP service to users in the beta trial, Microsoft has signed an agreement with telco MCI, which will initially allow beta testers to make free calls in the US, France, Germany, Spain and the UK.
Microsoft said the beta will be available to “tens of thousands” of testers, and will be expanded during the first half of next year.
As well as VoIP facilities, the beta allows users to drag and drop files into live conversations, so users can share data and collaborate on changing it.
Companies including Yahoo and AOL are conducting trials of VoIP services via their web portals.