MSN Messenger 6.0 launched amid confetti of cash

IM software touts new animated emoticons, Webcam service, expanded device integration

Microsoft released the final version of its MSN Messenger 6.0 instant messaging software Wednesday, touting its new animated emoticons, Webcam service, and expanded device integration amid a marketing campaign designed to elbow out rivals with cold, hard cash.

The Redmond, Wash., company released a public preview release of Messenger 6.0 on June 18, and said that it is celebrating the release of the final version with a "Fast Cash Friday" offer that gives randomly selected U.S. entrants $1,000.

The contest runs each Friday between July 25 and Aug. 15, during which the company will award a $1,000 prize each hour for 10 hours to one user logged onto the new software .

A Microsoft spokeswoman in the U.K. said that the contest is aimed at encouraging users to download the new version of the software.

The promotion underscores the increasing rivalry between top instant messaging (IM) players, such as Microsoft, Yahoo, and America Online (AOL). The three leaders have continued to work on bolstering their IM applications as the market has bloomed.

Some analysts have predicted that the IM market will reach $800 million by 2006, and the software providers have been scrambling to get as big a slice of this pie as possible.

Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL have all introduced enterprise versions of their IM clients, but have found that maintaining a strong consumer application base is also important.

Messenger 6.0 offers more than 60 new emoticons, some of which are animated. Users also have the ability to make personal emoticons, Microsoft said.

New background pictures and personal display pictures have also been added in a move to allow more personalization of the IM client.

The software has interactive features that allow users to share photos and files while playing online games, and an integrated Webcam service powered by Logitech, Microsoft said.

Microsoft has also expanded the software's device integration, allowing users to send and receive text messages over cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs), as well as send handwritten messages from Tablet PCs.

The company has also launched a new MSN community site where users can download emoticons, images, backgrounds and tools. The site is at http://groups.msn.com/messengerv6beta.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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