A Look at Yahoo's Vista Messenger

Late last week I got on the phone with Matthew Skyrm and Joshua Jacobson of Yahoo for a demo of the new Vista optimized Yahoo messenger that will be unveiled at CES. Overall we are impressed with the product from a design and user interface point of view, although there are no feature additions of note.

The new messenger has taken advantage of Vista’s new Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) application development framework, which further disassociates engineering and design teams by allowing designers to markup UIs using XAML. As an added advantages, it’s vector based, so pretty pictures will stay pretty as monitors get better.

Yahoo! shows off this new flexibility through a few new user customizations. Some of the small tweaks have been incorporating the chat functionality into tabs, staking out a spot for YM on the Vista widget tray, and automatically adding groups of friends you make on the Yahoo! network to you Messenger.

One of the bigger UI changes has been the ability for users to zoom in and out on their buddy lists, bringing user details, and eventually their Yahoo! account activity (360!, Flickr), into focus. You can also zoom out to a bare-bones view and display either in a grid format.

A pop-up pallet now makes it easy to switch between colors and textures of the application. Yahoo!’s use of WPF has also made it easy for them to develop custom skins for groups based around Yahoo! services. The first example has been for their popular Fantasy Football service, where you can track and chat about your upcoming games. The football helmets change with each matchup. Finally, the YM has photo sharing built right into the chat window, allowing you to flip through photo slides and chat at the same time.

For better quality photos and a video preview, check out Yahoo!’s product page.

This early look at what developers can do with WPF’s disassociation between design and behavior, following the trends we’ve seen on the web, gives me high expectations for future apps and should make a lot of developer’s lives easier.