live-search-411 On the go with your mobile phone in hand, Microsoft’s free 1-800-CALL-411 (Live Search 411) service helps you find the information you need and get to the places you want to go. You can access the service from any land line as well.

I had a chance to use the service several times while in Chicago and found it extremely easy to navigate and very easy to use. I was highly impressed by the time-saving convenience features that have made me a an immediate fan. For example, there is the “Text me this Info” feature that sends the listing information (address, phone number and link to a map) to your phone via SMS—if you call from your mobile, of course.

Yellow Pages? Check.
White Pages? Check.
Traffic, Movies, Weather? Check. Check. Check.

This service is under Microsoft’s Live Services—which includes Live Search, Live Mail (Hotmail), Live Local (Maps), etc. A lot of the technology came over as part of the Tellme Networks acquisition in March 2007 and is being integrated with ideas coming out of Microsoft Research. Many of you are already familiar with the Tellme technology if you have ever dialed 1-800-555-1212 or 1-800-555-TELL.

Repeat after me: “Only chumps dial 411. The cool kids dial 1-800-CALL-411.”

Using Windows Live Messenger to Send & Receive SMS Text Messages

Sending SMS text messages from a mobile phone (often called ‘text messaging’ or simply ‘texting’) seems to be getting more and more popular each day. Social networking services like Twitter are making texting more commonplace than e-mail and IM combined.

Texting is today’s version of reaching out and touching someone. In fact, I received most of my birthday well-wishes via text message this year. That’s a first. I guess today’s fast-paced world is all about keeping things short (the first ‘s’ in SMS), simple and sweet.

So what if you have a phone that cannot send SMS text messages? (Do they still make those?) What if your mobile plan doesn’t include text messages? Or, what if you want to use the big keyboard and monitor on your computer instead of the tiny keypad and screen on your phone to stay connected with your texting-obsessed friends?

Many people don’t know Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger can be used to send and receive text messages in addition to IMs. It’s simply a matter of adding mobile phone information to your contacts or creating new entries specifically for texting. Do this step once and you will be able to send text messages to those contacts and receive their responses from your desktop computer, the same way you IM today. The first time you send a text to one of your contacts they will need to authorize using their phones. The best way to see this process for yourself is to send a text to your phone first.

Watch the short (1:20) video below to see how to set things up and start texting from your PC. Click on the video to start/stop playback. You can also double-click the video to switch to full screen mode. Press the ‘ESC’ key to return to normal playback inside the browser.

Note: This video requires installation of Microsoft Silverlight which is one of the products I work on and wrote about previously. Silverlight 1.0 will release later this summer. The one-time installation takes just a few seconds and you just need to click the “Get Silverlight” button below to get started. I will begin using Silverlight more in future posts for video, photo galleries, etc. Don’t worry, it’s safe. 🙂

Video: How To Send SMS Text Messages using Windows Live Messenger