Microsoft said the two companies are initially making the calling features available to customers in five countries--the United States, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.
Once signed up, though, customers will be able to call to and from more than 220 countries. During the beta period, customers will get one hour of free calling from MCI, with rates for more time starting at about 2 cents a minute for calls to the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and western Europe during the beta testing period. Final pricing has yet to be determined.
The new software contains many new features, including one where two buddies can create a shared folder simply by dragging a file into their conversation. Either person can add or modify files, with any changes stored on Microsoft's servers and kept in sync on both users' computers. The software may ultimately have the ability to act as a means of managing contact information and as a hub for social networking once it is fully developed.