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Yahoo Messenger for Vista heads to beta

An updated version, available sometime in the second quarter, will add voice and SMS features into the Vista-specific client.

LAS VEGAS--On one score, Yahoo has been extremely receptive to an offer from Microsoft.

With its Yahoo Messenger for Vista, the Internet company has been one of the few consumer software companies to come out with a Windows Vista-specific product.

Yahoo's updated messenger program for Vista adds voice dialing as well as eye candy known as "Voice Visualizations." Yahoo

The instant messenger program doesn't have a lot of extra features (in some cases it has fewer than the generic Windows version). What it does have is an extremely pleasant look and feel. Using the Windows Presentation Foundation graphics engine built into Vista, the program smoothly resizes Windows and moves buddy icons around based on the screen real estate available.

The product, which has taken longer than expected, has been available in a text messaging-only "preview" version since December. Yahoo plans to announce on Friday that a beta version, due out sometime in the second quarter, will add voice messaging (PC-to-PC and PC-to-phone) as well as the ability to send SMS messages.

I had a chance to check out the software on Thursday thanks to product manager Josh Jacobson, who is attending the Mix 08 trade show here. Among the eye candy added to the latest version is something Yahoo calls "voice visualizations." Think of the visualizations in iTunes or another jukebox and you have the basic idea.

Mixing it up with Microsoft
Click here for full Mix '08 coverage.

It's not a killer feature, but like the program as a whole, it just makes me think that people would find Vista a whole lot more compelling if things like Yahoo Messenger for Vista were the rule rather than the exception.

Yahoo itself has no immediate plans to offer additional Vista applications, saying it prefers to learn its lessons with the Messenger program and wait for the install base to grow. Vista-specific applications get more interesting when the operating system passes Windows XP in terms of active users. Jacobson pointed to an IDC report that says that won't happen until the second half of next year.

"It's a little ways away," he said.

Speaking of which, does Microsoft even have a major consumer application that is Vista-only and takes advantage of Windows Presentation Foundation? Will Microsoft have to buy Yahoo to get one? I'm sure I'm overlooking something and my inbox will tell me what I am missing.