Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) announced in a blog post today a free offer of its online meeting tool Skype Meetings that provides small businesses with real-time audio, HD video conferencing and content sharing capabilities.
The offer includes:
- 60 days of setting up meetings for up to 10 people and up to 3 people after that;
- A personalized URL to share with meeting participants (they just click to join the session);
- Collaboration tools such as screen share, PowerPoint share, laser pointer and whiteboard, to make meetings more interactive and engaging;
- Professional meeting controls that let the meeting organizer mute the audience to be heard.
“Skype Meetings is a new offering designed to provide small businesses that do not have an Office 365 business subscription with a free online meetings tool that’s similar to what’s available with Skype for Business in Office 365,” said a Microsoft spokesperson in an email to Small Business Trends. “The features and capabilities of Skype Meetings are already available in Skype for Business in Office 365.”
Any person in the U.S. with a business email address and whose organization doesn’t already have Office 365 can sign up for free.
Skype for Business Meetings
Skype Meetings is a slimmed-down version of Skype for Business, which includes rich meeting capabilities such as group HD video and audio calling and meetings for up to 250 people, the ability to record meetings, presence and instant messaging during and outside of meetings, and integration with Office 365 web and client apps such as Outlook and Delve.
When asked why Microsoft is making this special offer, a spokesperson explained, “We’re always looking for ways to help more people experience Office 365, and Skype Meetings is designed to provide small businesses with a free online meetings tool that’s similar to what’s available with Skype for Business in Office 365.”
In other words, the free offer is a loss leader designed to attract more Office 365 and Skype for Business subscribers. Makes sense.
You may recall that Microsoft acquired Skype back in 2011 to move into the VoIP communications space. Last year, the company launched Skype for Business, replacing an older communications service called Lync.
The meetings capabilities — particularly those found in the business version — put Skype on par with platforms such as Google Hangouts, Join.me and GoToMeeting.
These are all commodity services that don’t differ much regarding their feature set (although they do vary in terms of the quality of connection). To one degree or another — or in one way or another — all allow multi-person meeting capability, content sharing and collaboration.
Since Skype Meetings is free, it’s probably worth a try and many small businesses will find it useful as a basic online meeting platform. Office 365 users will want to take advantage of Skype for Business, for its integration capabilities. And at $5 per user per month, it’s affordable for smaller businesses.
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