I had the pleasure of participating in the Bell Sympatico/MSN Market Trial for the past four months. In a partnership with MS, Bell plans to integrate the MSN portal and MSN 8 software into Sympatico.ca and broadband services.
I got the impression that the MSN software is going to be an value-added service you have to pay extra for, like the current firewall and anti-virus add-on packages. I also got a free mousepad out of it. 🙂
MSN 8 is basically an Internet Explorer tarted up to look like AOL, although the result is much more pleasing to the eye. Menus have a translucent glass effect on them. The program actually greets you by your first name everytime you log in. The masterwork, however, is the MSN Dashboard, a vertical sidebar that displays the time, a photo slide show, Inbox, favourite links, stocks, etc. It’s a smart idea that will also appear in Longhorn, and the inspiration for the freeware program Codename: Dashboard.
One feature I do not like – the clumsy integration of MSN Messenger. It installs itself without permission. It sets itself to load on Windows startup, without permission. When I disable that option, it starts up with MSN 8 without my permission. It cannot be terminated while MSN 8 is in memory. While MSN 8 is on, it becomes redundant with contacts appearing in its own native window plus the MSN Dashboard.
Furthermore, when I exit MSN 8, it does not close down. I try not use MSN Messenger (admittedly, its audio and webcam features are nice) as I find its “in your face” nature not very pleasant.