Yahoo's Messenger 7.0 Joins Internet Phone Derby

By Leslie Walker
Sunday, May 22, 2005

Everybody wants to be your phone company, but nobody's sure what a phone is anymore. Consider Yahoo's latest instant messaging software. Released in trial form last week, Yahoo Messenger 7.0 ( ) lets users talk over the Internet for free to other Yahoo Messenger users, as well as send them text messages. To stage these Internet phone calls, both parties must use the latest version of Yahoo's messaging software (Windows only) and have a microphone or headset plugged into their computers.

Basically, Yahoo has embedded Internet phone service -- or VoIP, as it's known -- into its instant messaging program and added a free voice-mail feature as well. The service can't call traditional phones, only computers with Internet access. To make calls, users click a "call computer" button and select the buddy name of the person they want to reach.

Another feature lets Yahoo Messenger users specify how they want to be contacted -- regular instant text messages, Internet voice calls, cell phone text messages or e-mail. The program connects with other Yahoo services too, including Yahoo 360, a social-networking program featuring blogging tools and personal profiles, and new photo-sharing options.

Yahoo has plenty of competition in its efforts to soup up messaging software. America Online, owner of the most widely used instant messaging program, recently integrated voice-calling with text chat and content-sharing features, and Microsoft embedded voice calling and video conferencing into the latest version of its MSN Messenger. All three are playing catch-up with Skype, a pioneer in free, computer-to-computer calling over the Internet.

Google Goes to the Office

The Microsoft-Google rivalry kicked into overdrive last week when Google released free software aimed at the corporate marketplace where Microsoft earns its bread and butter. The new Google Desktop Search for Enterprise is designed to help office workers find e-mail messages and other files on corporate networks.

The program works like the desktop search tool Google released for consumers in October; both are free downloads that work offline but are designed to drive more usage to Google's Web search service, which is supported by advertising. Google's business software can search e-mail messages stored in IBM's Lotus Notes, along with spreadsheets and word documents created by Microsoft Office. It also finds photos and files created by other programs, including America Online software and Internet Explorer.

As with its consumer version, Google's business software indexes the Web pages users visit, but it also allows computer administrators to encrypt index files against snooping.

Lest anyone think Google is turning away from the consumer market, the Internet search leader also introduced a new custom-home-page feature that makes it look a lot more like Yahoo and MSN. Users who register with Google can create a personalized portal page with content from various sources, including Gmail and Google News. Google's initial personalization options, however, still pale beside Yahoo's and MSN's. E-mail Leslie Walker

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