The space for video chat and messaging apps is becoming more and more crowded by the day, and Microsoft is fighting to keep Skype relevant in the battlefield.

The company has just unveiled a new service called Skype Meetings, a web-based version of the app specifically targeting small businesses and open to any device with a browser, camera, speaker and microphone.

On Skype Meetings, the host simply has to send participants a personalized link to join in. During the first 60 days of use, the free service lets up to 10 people log in for each video conference. After that, no more than three users will be allowed at the same time.

Skype Meetings As Free Service For Small Businesses

The service features PowerPoint integration, the laser pointer and whiteboard functionality, and screensharing, which are some of the most popular presentation tools on Skype for Business. Being a free service, however, Skype Meetings is just a pared down version of the original product for paying enterprise customers.

The free platform thus offers a glimpse into the full range of productivity tools offered by Skype for Business.

Skype Meetings, as a sample-sized offering, is designed to get small businesses to sign up for either Skype for Business or Office 365, which also includes Skype. For one, Skype for Business allows up to 250 participants to join a meeting.

"If you have an Office 365 business subscription that includes Skype for Business, then you already have richer online meetings capabilities," says Andrew Sinclair, general manager for Skype for Business.

Skype Faces Stiff Competition

Getting more people to sign up for Skype for Business is crucial to Microsoft, especially with the way rivals have been polishing up their own platforms as a productivity hub.

Google Hangouts, for instance, allows for easy screensharing and, soon, webcasting on its free chat service. This streamlines communication between users, without their ever having to log out of Google's suite of tools, from Gmail to Hangouts to Cast.

Team collaboration tool Slack is also spiffying up its texting app by including voice calls. The feature is available on both mobile and desktop versions; premium users also enjoy a group call feature that allows up to 15 people to join a conference.

Of course, there's also a whole slew of other messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Line, crowding the market.

Skype Now Allows Sending Of Files While Recipient Is Offline

Aside from the launch of Skype Meetings, Microsoft has also introduced a new feature that lets users send files even while the recipient is offline.

The latest version of the Skype app can be used to upload docs, images and videos of up to 300 MB for other users who are offline. Skype users previously had to wait until the recipient was online to be able to post files.

Small businesses with an official business email address can sign up for Skype Meetings at www.skype.com/meetings:

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