Microsoft makes freebie of Skype group video calls

The company is making Skype group video calling a free, cross-platform feature, starting with the Windows desktop, Mac, and Xbox One platforms.

Skype group video chat is now free. Microsoft

Microsoft is no longer charging for Skype group video calling.

The company announced Monday that Skype group video chat is now free, with no expiration date, on Windows desktop, Mac, and Xbox One. Microsoft will add support for other platforms with free Skype group video calling in the future, the company said in a blog post.

There's no time frame from Microsoft as to when group video calling will be available on "Modern" Windows like Windows RT or Windows Phone, or on Android tablets. Group video calling is not available at all on these platforms; only one-to-one video is. But once it is available on these new platforms, it will be free, with no expiration date, a company spokesperson confirmed.

Here's the fine print, from Microsoft's Skype site:

"Group video calling can be between 3 and 10 people, depending on the device. For best quality, we recommend up to 5 people. A fair usage policy applies. Group video calling is currently available on Windows desktop, Mac and Xbox One platforms, and will be coming soon on other platforms. Skype on Xbox One requires paid Xbox Live Gold membership."

Before today, Skype group video calling required a Premium Skype account, which cost $9.99 per month. Premium support also included group screen sharing, unlimited calls to a specific region, and more. Microsoft seems to be reworking what a "Premium" Skype consumer subscription includes. While this happens, Skype calling subscriptions are still available for purchase.

Seems like a good time for Microsoft to get more aggressive against Google+/Hangouts...

This story originally appeared as "Microsoft begins rolling out free Skype group video calling" on ZDNet.

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