Microsoft plans to introduce a new interface to Windows Live Messenger 9.0 that's based on Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) graphical technology, according to published reports that include purported screenshots of the new design.

The latest beta of Windows Live Messenger 9.0, an upgrade of the most widely used instant messaging (IM) client worldwide, lets users create multiuser chat rooms and share photos with one another, the blog reported.

Windows Live Messenger 9.0 will also feature tighter integration with Microsoft's Zune media player, said the Ars Technica news site, which reposted the screenshots unearthed by The Messenger Stuff blog also posted an entry about WPF features and other new capabilities that it said are being added to Windows Live Messenger 9.0.

Microsoft has yet to announce a release date for Windows Live Messenger 9.0, which has been in beta since last fall.

The initial betas of the IM upgrade don't take much advantage of WPF, which is Windows Vista's underlying graphical subsystem and can also be downloaded and added onto Windows XP. The various reports indicate, though, that upcoming beta builds of Windows Live Messenger 9.0 will rely more heavily on WPF, which is designed to make complex multimedia development easier and to speed up image rendering.

A spokeswoman for Microsoft said via email that the software vendor has "nothing to announce about future enhancements" to Windows Live Messenger at this point. But, she added, "there are a lot of exciting things happening in this space".

Formerly known as MSN Messenger, Windows Live Messenger had the most users among IM clients as of last December, according to data released earlier this year by comScore. The market research firm's comScore Media Metrix unit said that about 228 million of the 385 million IM users in December were running WLM.