Microsoft and France Telecom (who operate mobile phone services under the Orange brand) have announced a deal whereby Microsoft will supply a mobile version of their Windows Live Messenger (previously MSN Messenger) for use by Orange customers.
They say it’s the first service to converge PC and mobile-based instant messaging services. It will launch first in France and then roll out into other European countries, including the UK, during 2007.
Ultimately, it will allow France Telecom’s 135m customers to interact with 240 million worldwide Windows Live users, though this will roll out in stages, with ‘several million’ FT users expected to have access to it by 2009.
Only certain compatible handsets will initially be able to run the service. By December, nine handsets will be capable of downloading the software, including 6 already in production. This will increase to several dozen by the end of next year.
There are no public details on pricing yet, but the two companies have said that it would be made attractive to young users. Orange also don’t see SMS suffering as a result, as they say people want some messages to remain in a more private space.
Microsoft’s deal isn’t exclusive, meaning that similar services could roll out with other operators.
As Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger are now interoperable I wonder if this means that Orange users can IM both services.