Microsoft adds free standalone Skype Meetings tool for SMB users

Microsoft is rolling out a free, standalone Skype Meetings tool for US-based small business users.

Microsoft is looking to a new, free version of its online meeting tool to entice more small- and midsize-business (SMB) users to try Skype for Business.

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On July 5, Microsoft officials announced a new version of Skype Meetings available as a standalone, free service. Skype Meetings is already part of Skype for Business, which is part of Microsoft's Office 365 suite.

The free version of Skype Meetings is aimed at SMB users in the US who want to conduct online meetings and aren't current Office 365 users.

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Microsoft's Skype Meetings tool lets users hold group HD video/audio meetings for up to 10 people (after 60 days, however, that number drops to three people for those who take advantage of the free offer). Skype Meetings also allows users to share their screens, collaborate on PowerPoints, and join from PCs, Macs, tablets, or phones.

The free Skype Meetings offering comes with a personalized URL that anyone can click on to join the meeting. It also includes features -- like audience mute -- that let organizers control the meeting.

Skype Meetings in Skype for Business has more robust functionality, with users able to conduct HD video/audio meetings for up to 250 people, record meetings, and integrate with Office 365 web and client apps like Outlook and Delve.

US users with a business email address and whose organization doesn't already have Office 365 can sign up for Skype Meetings at www.skype.com/meetings.

I'd consider this another example of Microsoft's ever-expanding freemium strategy.