Microsoft announced Monday that Skype group video calls are now free. Previously, the feature required a Skype Premium account, which started at $2.99 per month. Meanwhile, Google’s Hangouts service has long offered group video chats for free, and it’s clear Microsoft wants to make sure it keeps as many customers using its service as possible. It’s still not as robust as Google’s offering, however.
Skype group video calling is free across PC, Mac and Xbox One. While that’s a good start, it still doesn’t offer support for mobile platforms — like iOS and Android — where Google Hangouts is still going to be the go-to choice for group chats. Skype said that it will start to add support “for all our users across more platforms,” in the future, but didn’t say when it will make the move to mobile.
I use Skype from time-to-time, mostly to stay in touch with other members of the staff, but we’ve recently started using Hangouts more and more. With the added benefit of group video chat, and the ability to Skype in from the couch with an Xbox One, maybe we’ll revisit the platform. That’s probably the end goal for Microsoft here — to bring back users who have since switched to competing platforms, and to keep existing users. It would be wise to add mobile support as soon as it can.