Free Skype Debuts for Small Business Video Conference Calls
Small businesses in the United States that don't have Office 365 or Skype for Business can now set up free online video conference meetings for small groups of people via Skype.
By signing up for Microsoft's new Skype Meetings, users with business email addresses can set up online get-togethers for up to 10 people during the first 60 days of service. After that trial period, Skype Meetings will support video conferences for up to three people at a time.
Announced yesterday by Microsoft, the new offering lets users automatically invite people to online meetings via personalized links. Links are generated after a user selects the email addresses of participants from a launch page that connects to Outlook, Gmail, Google Calendar or other email or calendar apps.
In addition to supporting real-time audio and video conferencing, Skype Meetings also lets participants instant message one another, use a laser pointer and whiteboard tools, and share screens or PowerPoint presentations. Meeting organizers can also mute other participants while leading their presentations.
Real-Life Meetings in Action
Yesterday's Skype Meetings announcement on the Microsoft Office blog featured a two-minute video showing the conferencing platform in use at Ramona, California-based Solar Flight Inc. A maker of solar-powered aircraft, the company was shown using a Skype meeting to discuss ways of solving a propeller design problem with remote employees.
"Skype Meetings allows me to have face-to-face meetings with people that can't be at my shop," company president Eric Raymond said during the video. "It's critical for rapid progress."
At the end of the video, Raymond is shown making a follow-up video call with employees while flying one of his company's solar-powered planes.
Competing with Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger
The free Skype Meetings offering is a scaled-back version of the service available to business customers with paid subscriptions to Microsoft's Office 365 suite of cloud-based productivity tools. That suite provides users with "richer online meetings capabilities," according to Andrew Sinclair, general manager of Skype for Business.
Office 365 business subscribers can use Skype to hold video conference meetings with as many as 250 people at a time, as well as to send instant messages at any time to anyone in their companies. The paid version also integrates Skype with other Microsoft apps so users can set up online meetings from within their Outlook calendars or launch Skype discussions directly from Outlook, Word or PowerPoint.
Microsoft's new option for Skype Meetings -- accessible at go.skype.com/meetings after users sign up for the free version -- puts the video conferencing tool on a more even par with Google's latest version of Hangouts. In August, Google updated Hangouts, its phone, messaging and video conferencing app, so a user can access it directly from a Web page rather than having to use other Google services such as Gmail or Google Plus.
Facebook also introduced a similar option for its Messenger communications app last year, although a user still needs an active Facebook account to take advantage of those services.
Posted: 2017-02-14 @ 1:36am PT
Yeah, Skype is good for casual, social interactions. But for business web video conferences, I recommend using a more secured option such as a R-HUB HD video conferencing server. It provides 30 way HD video conferencing.