New MSN Messenger for Mac Rolls Out

Microsoft Corp. is joining AOL Time Warner Inc.’s AOL Instant Messenger and ICQ services in targeting the growing user base of Apple Computer Inc.’s Macintosh OS X operating system.

The software giant today said its new MSN Messenger 3.0 for Mac is a greatly improved version of Microsoft’s popular instant messaging application developed for Mac OS X, with several new features and improved reliability and performance.

The new client is designed to behave and look like the Mac OS X user interface, and offers new features such as the ability to transfer files to people in the user’s Buddy List, organize contacts in easy-to-find groups, and resize toolbars and icons. Emoticon support is also improved.

The new Mac OS X flavor of IM, available for Max OS X 10.1 and later, delivers on “the Macintosh Business Unit’s promise to continue delivering powerful Mac OS X applications,” Microsoft said in a statement.

MSN Messenger 3.0 for Mac is available as a free download directly from Microsoft. The software giant also released a service upgrade for Office v. X for Mac, which is at the Microsoft site as well.

Apple itself, meantime, previewed in early May its own IM client called iChat. The Apple software is attractive for the consumer end of the IM market because it is compatible with America Online’s AIM network. What’s more, Apple even had AOL’s blessing in developing the client. The new iChat can even let users communicate with people on Ethernet or AirPort networks.

iChat features a Aqua interface, and allows for instant messaging among members, AOL members and AIM users. The Mac OS X version of iChat allows users to quickly see and change their online status and communicate with buddies from the menu bar. The Mail application in Mac OS X, meantime, shows online status of buddies. And a new system-wide Address Book manages buddy information including name, handle and photo.

The iChat client uses “dialogue bubbles” and buddy photos to present instant messages, while iChat invitations pop on the screen using transparency and animation effects.

iChat will be included with the next major release of Mac OS X, code-named “Jaguar,” available to customers late this summer.

The move will greatly broaden the number of people Apple users can IM — AIM has more than 150 million registered users and counting.

In addition, a beta release of AOL’s AIM for the OS X platform is available in beta directly from the online behemoth. New features for the program include a new dock menu, a new contextual menu plugin, new bot artwork and new smart connection preference choices.

Meantime ICQ, the granddaddy of public IM that’s now owned by AOL, was also the first out with an OS X flavor of its client. The new ICQ 3.0X, rolled out last December, is ICQ’s first unified version for Mac OS “Classic” versions 8.6 and higher as well as for Mac OS X. It contains features that were previously separately available to users of the two platforms, as well as key new features found in ICQ 2001b wireless client, such as the server-based contact lists.

ICQ 3.0X integrates with the Macintosh desktop using the latest Mac OS technologies. It offers enhanced multilingual support as well as AppleScript support, which allows users to automate ICQ actions and activate them from other applications.

Bob Woods is the managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.

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