Microsoft launches Skype Meetings for small businesses

Microsoft has launched Skype Meetings, a new version of its popular video and audio conferencing software designed with small businesses in mind.

The company's latest release will feel quite similar for users already familiar with its Skype for Business solution, albeit stripped down. Whereas Skype for Business allows for meetings with up to 250 people, Skype Meetings limits the maximum participants to 10 people. However after the initial two months of using the product, that number drops down to three people.

Microsoft has also removed Skype for Business' deep integration with its other products including Outlook and Word. Skype Meetings only allows users to collaborate using PowerPoint or through screen sharing.

In order to make it easier for participants to join Skype Meetings, a personalised URL is created that can be shared via Gmail or Outlook. The technology used in Skype for Business is also being utilised by the software to provide Skype's head-tracking feature which helps ensure that a participants' face is always in the centre of the screen even if they are actually off to the side of their device's camera during a call.

Microsoft's decision to limit the number of participants on video calls in Skype Meetings, suggests that the company sees its latest product as more of a trial version of Skype for Business. It is already possible to have group calls with up to 10 people using the regular version of Skype available for free. This new version though offers the business-oriented features of Skype for Business that could be quite appealing to small businesses or startups.

Skype has evolved a great deal since being acquired by Microsoft. However, the video and audio conferencing software has faced stiff competition from Google Hangouts which includes deep integration with Google's office tools for free.

Image Credit: LDprod / Shutterstock