The next generation of MSN / Windows Messenger is going to be launching, we suspect, along with Windows Vista next year. The first screenshots of the new beta have appeared on the net, and are being hosted by the guys over at ActiveWin
The shots appear to show an application that is fundamentally the same as previous versions, but with a few tweaks. As you might expect, the buddy list appears the same, the tools for editing your picture are the same, you can add a personal message to your sign in name, etc.
There are some new tabs down the left hand side of the main contact list window. One of these rather appears like an Xbox 360 logo, which I would think is to allow you to link your MSN name to your Xbox Live Gamertag, allowing you access to your Live friends lists and such while you're at the pc.
The application itself is renamed to Windows Live Messenger, which rather suggests that Microsoft are going to tie it in with the new Windows Live
service that has launched. Windows Live allows you to customise your own homepage with RSS news feeds, location specific data and the like.
One of the major goals of the new Xbox 360 was to make the whole thing very personal to each user, hence the custom faceplates and the ability to have gamer pictures. It seems that Microsoft might be trying to bring this ethos to the Windows platform too, with themes and customised content in order.
Take a look at the pictures, then let us know what you make of them in the forum.