What's this? Posting at 4am in the morning? Are you kidding me? No. I can't sleep.
Ahh, a sigh of relief, a breath of fresh air, freshly ironed underwear, or the first sip of an ice cold beer after a crap day at work. All these combined make the new, pre-release (even then, it was leaked - badly) version of Windows Live Messenger a lovely piece of kit.
For many a year, I've been juggling different services - MySpace (at the time), then Facebook, Windows Live Messenger, Ranger Outpost, and good old fashioned coin-operated email to connect with my friends and colleagues to collaborate on projects together. This, quite frankly, was a right royal pain in the butt, as I have a severe memory deficiency when it comes to remember what I'm doing, my usernames and passwords, and who I'm supposed to be talking to next.
WLM9 as it shall be known herein, now does pretty much anything I need to get work done. Provided that person(s) are using a version of Windows Live Messenger, then it makes life so much easier.
I can group certain contacts together to separate out my personal contacts from my work contacts, and collaborate with them independently or collectively. I can change those people's sign-in sounds to something loud and intrusive, so I'll be able to hear them whilst in the next room as they sign-in - allowing me to bug them for a group project code revision I've been asking for all last week.
I can send a screenshot or a photo, using a new feature called PhotoShare, to a friend and it'll allow them to share things back in a "full-window" environment, cutting out the need for a full blown conversation window and using that space more wisely for what we need.
However, if people add me on Messenger and spam me with Viagra, cheap mobile ringtones and other crap like that, I can completely block and remove them from my Live ID, contacts and suchlike, whilst reporting it to Microsoft and letting them know they have a spammer - all with a (couple of) click of a mouse.
I can appear in two places at once; something we can't ordinarily do, but this way we can be at work or at home, in a Starbucks or at the university library and not be disconnected from the service. This allows for wherever I am, my contacts can still interact with me and share their documents and thoughts regardless of whether I'm in a fixed location or not.
Of course, because I'm a student and most of the time I'm hammered, I'll get excited by something as little as a red shiny ball... a bit like Bush really. The flip side to the student-related work aspects, I like a bit of shiny-shiny.
"Yeah, check out my MySpace page, along with my favourite songs and movies, and things that other people have created, but I use to express my individualism...". Maybe so, but now I can use animated display pictures to really show the world what I'm thinking or what's going on in my head. See, there's a dancing badger. Point made.
Because the whole application is made with .NET Framework 3, or as I still call it, "WPF" from back in the Longhorn days, it means the eye-candy really works well on Vista. Don't bother bitching about Vista here - the point is, this new client adds glossy effects, shiny glowing text and allows you to smoothly extend your conversation windows.
There's no difference to the webcam feature; still the same old quality we had before. The sound on the other hand seems to have improved. On my works laptop, Windows XP Professional, the cracking has reduced and northern-England accents are easier to understand (strangely). This may or may not tie in with the removal of the Windows Live Call feature, which no longer appears as part of Messenger.
Voice-over-Messenger for me is more preferable to Skype; the quality seems about the same and all of my contacts are in Messenger, so there's little point in using yet another service.
There have been rumours that Google Talk and Windows Live Messenger 9 interoperability is round the corner. Maybe so, but there's nothing working between the current Google client and the pre-release WLM9 client at the moment. Tried it and it failed miserably; stuck in a limbo of inviting people to either service without actually getting anywhere.
Wave 3 of the Windows Live product suite hits private beta next week, but until then, keep your eye on LiveSide as the chances are, those devious little buggers will have something before even "the evil queen of numbers" does.