The same day that rival Google rolled out a beta of its instant messaging, Microsoft Corp. released a new version of MSN Messenger, the Redmond, Wash.-based developer's IM client.
The 7.5 release -- prompted at least in part by the GoogleTalk debut -- features back-shop improvements, especially in voice chat quality, said Microsoft. But at least two new tools are up front and center to users: a 15-second audio clip feature and dynamic backgrounds.
The new Voice Clip tool lets users send short audio bits to IM buddies, while Dynamic Backgrounds offers 10 interface background images (and opens the door for promotional backgrounds to evoke at least some elements of "skinning" the interface). Additional backgrounds from MSN partner Blue Mountain start at $1 each.
MSN Messenger 7.5 can be downloaded free of charge from Microsoft's MSN site.