Microsoft's Skype Meetings is a free collaboration tool for small businesses

Microsoft has introduced Skype Meetings, a new online service designed to provide small businesses with a place to hold videoconferences and allow for effective collaboration, all for free.

Setting up a meeting with colleagues using the system is easy, with the organiser simply sending out a link to all participants which they click to join.

You get HD video, instant messaging, and screen sharing capabilities, so if you want to show other folks a presentation from your PC, for example, that's perfectly possible. There are also tools such as a virtual 'laser pointer' for highlighting things in presentations, and the meeting organiser has access to functions such as muting all other participants so they can be heard above the noise if necessary.

Skype Meetings

Three's the not-so-magic number

As Redmond notes in a blog post, currently this is all free to anyone in the US who has a business email address (hopefully we'll see the service in other countries soon). There are limits to its usefulness though, as meetings are restricted to a maximum of three people after two months of usage (for the first 60 days, you can hold online meetings for up to 10 people).

Microsoft is also using this freebie to push Office 365 business subscriptions, which include Skype for Business, offering such online meetings for up to 250 participants, and full integration with all Office apps among other benefits.

Still, this is definitely a smart freebie to have, although it would be nice if the limit of three participants that comes into play after the first two months was slightly less restrictive.