REDMOND, Washington: Microsoft is poised for the next leap forward in its quest for interconnectivity - the linking of communications across PCs, TV sets, cellphones and other mobile devices.

And, of course, remaining one step ahead of rivals Sony (on the games front) and Google (on every other front).

The software colossus is utilizing two in-house technologies to achieve its goal - Windows Live Messenger (WLM), currently claimed to be in use by more than 200 million people, and its Xbox 360 games console which boasts over 6m broadband-linked users of its Xbox Live community.

As of May 7, these two services will begin to converge, enabling gamesters to use an existing WLM account to 'chat' with contacts via a standard TV set connected to their game machine. The interface will be either an on-screen keyboard or USB keyboard connected to the Xbox.

Rah-rah's Microsoft's Xbox 360 group manager John Rodman: "We feel this is a huge step in driving social networking further into the family room by allowing Xbox 360 users to [use WLM] directly from their couch. Now you don't have to manage two separate groups of friends online."

Microsoft says it hopes to offer voice chat between Xbox and Live Messenger users later this year. Creating yet another nascent e-ad medium.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff