Microsoft's upcoming Skype for Web service will use the new WebRTC standard so it works in all modern browsers -- but not right away: early users will have to download a plugin that's only available on Mac and Windows. That's something Microsoft has already done for years in its Lync universal communications product.
Sales of video conferencing and telepresence hardware systems are declining, hurt by an increase in cloud and software-based options that often are cheaper and simpler to deploy, according to an IDC study.
In 2014's first quarter, video conferencing equipment revenue shrank 16 percent worldwide year over year to $473.5 million, while units sold fell 6.2 percent.
Microsoft announced that it will offer free group video calls on Skype, its popular internet communications service. Previously, such calls were reserved for customers who paid for premium Skype accounts.
Microsoft will demonstrate how Lync and Skype users will be able to communicate via video conferencing, the next stage of the integration between its enterprise unified communications server and its consumer IM and IP telephony network. The new integration will be shown at the Lync Conference, in Las Vegas and will be attended by almost 2,000 customers and partners, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft has unveiled a commercial networking site where small businesses can promote their products and services and interact with potential customers and partners primarily using Skype.
The new website, called Skype in the Workspace (SITW), is free and already being used by about 500 small businesses that began participating in it during its six-month beta period, Microsoft said on Thursday.