Skype – which is owned by Microsoft – today made a big announcement: That group video chats are going free, having previously been a premium product. Google executives are probably in a video Hangout right now trying to figure out how to respond.
According to The Next Web, who reported the story, group chats go free from today on PC, Mac and Xbox One – with other platforms to follow in due course. Previously, group chats could be audio-only without the user getting their wallet out.
The plan is apparently to extend the functionality to other platforms – most notably iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Windows ‘Metro’ interface in due course – but each platform will support differing numbers of people. For example, whilst up to 10 PCs and Macs can join video chats, the Xbox One will only support four.
The move will no-doubt frighten Google a little. This comes just days after rumours were flying about Google Plus being sent packing to a farm upstate, when their equivalent product – Hangouts – was being specifically highlighted by unnamed insiders as a diamond in that mess.
Hangouts does have one thing going for it though: not only has it supported free group video chat for some time, but there’s also the YouTube broadcasting functionality – in which video conferences can be streamed live on the Google-owned video sharing website… something that Skype will never be able to offer.
So if you’re a Skype user, why not give the new free functionality a test? Hey, you should probably call your mother anyway, right?