Move over, Google+ Hangouts. Microsoft’s Skype announced today that it is now offering free group video.
“While Skype is known for one-to-one video calling, we know it’s also essential to connect with the groups of people who matter most, whether friends, family or colleagues,” general manager for consumer marketing Phillip Snalune posted on the Skype blog today.
Google+ Hangouts has been known for its free group chatting. When asked how Skype’s new offering compares, a Microsoft spokesperson told VentureBeat that “our group conversation features, including chat, video, and screen sharing, offer a simpler and easier experience for users.”
The group video feature had been available for several years for paid Premium users on Windows desktop, Mac, and Xbox One, and the rollout goes first to those platforms. However, the company noted on its website that “Skype on Xbox One requires paid Xbox Live Gold membership.”
Skype said it will be enabling the free feature for other platforms “in the future,” with mobile clients expected to be top of the list. The company declined to provide any more details to us about the rollout schedule.
The group calling can handle three to ten people, although the company recommends no more than five.
Microsoft has been steadily adding features to Skype, and to its business-focused Lync, as multi-mode communications have become an integral part of everyday living and conducting business. Microsoft has been facing strong competition from Hangouts and other video communications in the consumer and small business space, and from Cisco and Google’s Chromebox video in the middle to large business market.