Skype today announced it is making group video calling (GVC) available free of charge on Windows desktop, OS X, and the Xbox One. At the same time, the company is also promising it will enable group video calling across all platforms at no cost “in the future.”
We talked to Phillip Snalune, Skype’s General Manager of Consumer Product Marketing, to learn more, and he specifically listed apps for the following platforms: Windows modern (read: Metro app), Windows Phone, Android, and iOS. Unfortunately, he refused to share exact timing details.
Snalune also wouldn’t disclose how much revenue the feature has generated or how many users actively accessed it. Skype started charging for GVC in January 2011; to use the feature, at least one person on the call needed to have a Premium account ($4.99 for a day pass or $8.99 per month).
On the desktop, Skype can support up to 10 PCs and Macs for group video calling. On the Xbox One, up to four devices are supported. Snalune said Skype wasn’t ready to share yet how many devices other platforms would support, but the minimum will naturally be three.
Today, the company merely plans to inform existing paying users that the feature is now free. The vast range of calling packages offered by Skype that include the GVC component will continue to be sold at the same price, Snalune told TNW.
As for why today was chosen to flip the free switch, Snalune merely said Skype wanted to offer “the best communication experience for our users” and that there was “a lot of demand” for group chat and group audio calling, so GVC was the next logical step. When pressed about whether Google Hangouts, which has offered free group video calling for a few years now, had anything to do with it, Snalune just said the decision was user-driven and the “appetite” for the feature was growing.
Skype is already known for 1:1 video calling, and now the Microsoft-owned company has finally realized groups matter as well. Whether it will become king for group video calling remains to be seen, but that is certainly a likely possibility.
See also – Skype for Windows Phone 8.1 can upgrade calls to video chats and will have Cortana integration and Skype updates Android app with promise it will no longer drain your battery