Folks who use free communications services from Microsoft and Yahoo will be able to communicate directly for the first time soon, thanks to a new alliance between the two companies in this area. Users of Microsoft's MSN Messenger and Yahoo's Messenger will be able to trade messages with each other. The move is likely designed to take on the IM software offerings from messaging leader AOL and market newcomer Google.

A Microsoft spokeswoman and a Yahoo spokeswoman declined to comment on the alliance, first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The tie-up, expected to be announced on Wednesday, will also give users of both services the ability to communicate via voice as well, a feature that up to now has been restricted to users within each service, the source said.