I was working away this morning when my GTalk popped. It was Jeff, trying out a new feature of GMail.
8:09 AM jeff.pulver: are you also using gmail
Over on the left side of the GMail window there’s now a panel called "Quick Contacts" which shows you all your GTalk buddies. You can initiate a conversation from the browser as well, and it starts in another panel attached to the page. Of course, if you navigate away, the conversation ends. That’s a little inconvenient.
After chatting with Jeff I went and checked out MSN as well. In Hotmail they have a similar feature. In Hotmail, if you click on your addres book, you can see presence icons for all of your contacts, and can initiate a conversation with MSN messenger. The integration isn’t as tight as GMail / GTalk, because it simply launches a messenger window. However, you can continue the conversation and navigate away with the Microsoft solution.
And if you’re a MSN premium subscriber, you can have the identical feature to the GMail / GTalk feature, but you can turn it into a tear away that you can drop on your desktop.
It seems clear that both companies are looking at IM and EMail as being two sides of the same coin. Google has the upper hand in terms of integration, in my opinion. The fact that all my GTalk threads get stored in the mail system makes a ton of sense. But Microsoft has a nicer user experience.
Neat! And like Jeff, I am eagerly looking forward to more integration.