Microsoft has bolstered the business credentials of Skype today with the launch of Skype Meetings, a web browser based feature that lets user’s conference call and share documents. The service is geared towards small business users and lets up to 10 people conference call for the first 60 days, but then limits conferences to three people thereafter.
Skype Meetings gives small businesses real-time HD video calling and audio to conduct meetings and presentations. Users are able to share documents, screens, and PowerPoint presentation, while the owner of the conference can mute users and use a laser pointer, all directly from a web browser.
Of course, these features are already available on Skype Business, but that application is only functional with an Office 365 subscription. Skype Meetings brings many Business features to a free browser-based setting that anyone can join.
Microsoft is using Skype Meetings as a sort of introduction to Office 365 and Skype Business. The company hopes small businesses will see the advantages of the conference functions and be willing to pay for a full Office 365 subscription to use the expanded features of Skype Business (such as conferences with up to 250 users).
To be eligible for Skype Meetings, you need to have a business website and be situated in the United States, although Microsoft may well expand this to other regions in time. Companies with existing Office 365 subscriptions cannot use the new service as they will be pushed to Skype Business.
As for the rest of us non-business types who want group chat in Skype, the regular desktop and mobile version of the service offers group video chat for up to 25 people.
Microsoft is facing increased competition in the business communication market, with companies (notably Slack) making significant inroads over the last few months.