Microsoft has unveiled a free HD Skype tool for small business users called Skype Meetings. It runs on a browser and will let you meet with up to 10 people for the first 60 days, and a maximum of three after that. Users can also share screens and PowerPoint presentations, and the organizer can wield a virtual “laser pointer” or mute users. Such features are already available with Skype Business, but that app requires a paid Office 365 subscription. With Skype Meetings, however, anyone with a link can join a chat.Microsoft’s regular (free) Skype product already allows group video chat with up to 25 folks, whether on PC or mobile. There’s also new competition via Sean Parker’s Airtime and Houseparty from Meerkat, though those apps are more aimed at social, not business users. Nevertheless, those products (along with existing ones like Google Hangouts) may have prodded Redmond to release the browser app.
While Microsoft already has a web-based version of Skype in beta, it lacks the collaboration tools from Skype Meetings. That means it’s technically giving its business users the first non-beta browser version of Skype. Not surprisingly, Microsoft is using the new tool to entice users to Office 365. It points out that with Skype Business you can “conduct large group meetings for up to 250 people … and initiate an IM, audio or video conversation from within apps like Outlook, Word and PowerPoint.”