Skype’s group video calling (GVC) service is now available free of charge on Windows desktop, OS X and the Xbox One. This feature makes it easier to share big news with many family members or friends on one call. In a blog post, Skype said group video calling will be added to more platforms in the future “at no cost.”
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Skype launched group video calling as a premium service in January 2011 at a price of $4.99 for a day or $8.99 per month. The calling packages that Skype sells with GVC as a component will continue to be sold at the same price.
Group video calling through Skype for Macs and PCs can support up to ten people, while the Xbox One is limited to four. Phillip Snalune, the general manager of consumer product marketing of Skype, told TheNextWeb that GVC will be eventually integrated into Skype for Windows Phone, Android and iOS.
Why did Skype make GVC free? Skype realized that it is “essential to connect with the groups of people who matter most, whether friends, family or colleagues.”
Another reason why Skype likely made group video calling free is because of competition. Skype faces tough competition from rivals like Cisco’s WebEx and Google's Hangouts. Google has been offering free group video calling through Hangouts for a while now and often hosts live “On Air” events with influential people. To some degree, Skype also competes against messaging applications like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Yahoo Messenger. WhatsApp recently said its users were sharing 100 million videos per day.
Skype was first released as a VoIP and instant messaging client in August 2003 by Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström. It was acquired by eBay for about $2.5 billion in cash and stock in October 2005. Since eBay was unable to properly leverage Skype across its marketplace, the online auction giant sold 65% of Skype to Silver Lake, Andreessen Horowitz, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for $1.9 billion in 2009. Microsoft bought Skype for $8.5 billion in May 2011 and has been integrating it into various products like Lync, Windows Phone, Outlook, Xbox LIVE and Office since then.
Are you a Skype user? What do you think of Skype’s group video calling feature becoming a free service? Let us know in the comments.