More Skype and more MSN

Internet phone service provider Skype has released a new update to version 1.2 of its desktop application for Windows.

The new version offers enhanced user benefits including a centralized contacts list (meaning you can access your list of contacts from any computer you use to connect to Skype, not just the one you usually use), and a new ‘Getting Started Wizard,’ which makes finding friends, importing contacts and making test calls even easier.

The latest version, released on 6 April, includes some further bug fixes (notably re when using Skype and you connect to someone who has an older version) plus a welcome fix – if a SkypeIn call goes to your voicemail (if you have that), your custom greeting is now played. See the full change history.

By the way, if you use Norton AntiVirus, 2004 or later, you’ll encounter a security alert every time you run Skype, even if you have Skype listed as an allowed program. This will definitely happen each time you upgrade the Skype software. I don’t know whether this is a Skype or Norton issue, or both. Luckily, there is a simple fix.

Yesterday, Microsoft released MSN Messenger 7.0, the latest incarnation of its multi-platform instant messaging software. In a press release (which also announced a new version of MSN Spaces), Microsoft said the application is available worldwide in 26 languages and introduces improved video, voice and personalization features that allow people to communicate in more meaningful ways than ever.

Three features in particular look most interesting:

Free PC-to-PC video conversation. The new, free MSN Video Conversation service, powered by Logitech technology, connects people with one-click synchronized audio and video, and offers full-screen video viewing.
Ability to talk over the Internet for free. MSN Messenger 7.0 includes higher-quality audio functionality so customers can enjoy free, real-time PC-to-PC voice conversations with friends and family around the world.
PC-to-mobile communications. Customers will soon be able to stay in touch by sending IMs to friends and family who aren’t on their PC. Customers in selected countries will be able to send SMS text messages from MSN Messenger to mobile phones – even if the person they are sending to doesn’t have an MSN Messenger account – and the mobile user can reply to the MSN Messenger user. This feature will be available in multiple markets this spring.

See the Messenger website for detailed info.

MSN Messenger now offers some of the features that have made Skype such a success, plus one (video) that Skype doesn’t yet offer.

Which is better? There’s the big question. I use Skype but I don’t use Messenger (although I will give version 7 a spin). There are plenty of opinions out there on both.

With so much choice, it’s a great time to be a customer, whichever one you use!