Looks like its open-season on Wave 3 now, with Inky over at Mess.be getting his hands on the Wave 3 Milestone 1 installer for Windows Live Messenger. While Inky may be obsessed with version numbers and about screens, we’re more interested in what’s going on in terms of new integration across services. Its now been 9 months since the launch of Messenger 8.5, Mail and Photo Gallery as part of Wave 2, but as this is only a first milestone, there’ll be other internal updates before a version gets released to the public. That said, there’s still some positive signs that the eventual Messenger v9 release is going to be good.
– The top of the contact list features the new Windows Live Wave 3 header we’ve seen already. Not much else has changed here, with the links to other Windows Live Services still present, along with the colour customisation options.
– Underneath the word wheel (search box) there is a first-run prompt to set up Favourite Contacts. We haven’t talked about this new feature yet, but as the name suggests, these are the contacts you are most interested in. Positioning this special group of contacts at the top gives you at-a-glance information about their status and activities, something we expect to see used throughout other Windows Live services. Based on what we’ve heard we’re expecting this feature to be upgraded in the Messenger UI by the final version. We’re expecting this to be a big hit with the mainstream Messenger users, so it’ll be interesting to see how hard it gets pushed in other services such as Hotmail.
– Windows Live Groups. We said it was more than just a stand-alone service, and here’s the proof. By allowing groups of contacts to communicate with each other through Group IM, this takes the existing multi-party chat functionality to a new level. Of course it also opens up others scenarios such as sharing files and photos, so we can’t wait to see how this develops. A LiveSide blogger group, now that would be interesting ;)
(As Mess.be mentions, now that Groups is a service in its own right, groups of contacts are now called categories to try and avoid any confusion.)
– The top of the chat windows features a slim-downed toolbar, offering easy access to the main features you can use in the conversation. The first one, Photos, is new, more on that below.
– The Wave 3 header continues below the toolbar, with the display picture now protruding into this area. The reason for this space-saving move becomes clear when having a group conversation, something that will happen more often in the new version ;) Note that I haven’t blanked out the email address here; its removal saves yet more screen real-estate.
This is a new application that allows users to transfer photos to their contacts for viewing. The main part of the conversation window shows a large preview for one of the photos, with the right hand side column showing smaller previews for the upcoming photos. As I mentioned in our post on Windows Live FrameIt, Microsoft may be late to the photo-sharing party, buts its definitely trying to get going with Wave 3. PhotoZoom integration in the future maybe? Maybe we’re just getting too excited, but there’s some great opportunities in this area.
While it may look like only some minor changes have been made, there’s much more going on under the surface than meets the eye. Groups and Favourite Contacts integration, along with PhotoShare, show great promise at being hits with users – just compare this to the Winks and Nudges v7 release a few years back and the despair those brought. We can’t wait to get testing this, so as Inky says, bring on the next beta!