Skype was founded in Luxembourg in 2003 as an instant messaging app that provides video chat services and online text messaging. It also handles video conference calls. By the end of 2010, there were 660 million users worldwide. Skype was acquired by Microsoft in 2011 for US$8.5 billion. It is now part of the standard Microsoft 365 package. You can buy Skype for Business online meetings starting at NZD$3 per user, per month.
Prices last checked July 2017
Skype’s main service
Skype’s main offerings are freeware – components that the company does not charge for.
- Instant messaging
- Voice and video calls
- Group video calls
- Send pictures and files
- Screen sharing
- Translate calls and messages
The only charges that are incurred in these offerings are calls placed to landlines or mobile phones. Skype can be used on a traditional computer or laptop, mobile devices, tablets and Xbox.
Other Skype services
There are four main offerings for Skype for Business, two of which are under the umbrella of Microsoft Office 365. Here’s a breakdown of the plans and what they include:
Skype for Business Online – Plan 1
- A step above the free version of Skype
- The core feature set of instant messaging, peer-to-peer VOIP and video
- Audio, video and web conferencing
- A client developer platform
- Compatibility on Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, and with web clients
- Does not include Microsoft 365 programs or email addresses
Skype for Business Online – Plan 2
- Everything included in Plan 1
- Enterprise-level technical phone support, 24/7
- Desktop apps
- Chat-based team workspaces
- Group HD video for up to 250 people
- The ability to record audio and video calls
- Meeting options such as inserting polls and Q&A sessions into meetings
Office 365 Business Essentials
- Group HD video and audio calling for up to 250 people
- Presence and IM features active during and outside of meetings
- Ability to join calls from PC/Mac, tablet or phone
- Online versions of Microsoft Office (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more)
- Skype for Business web conferencing, Exchange Online and OneDrive for Business
- Email with one 50GB mailbox per user
- 1TB file storage per user
Office 365 Business Premium
- Everything included in the Office 365 Business Essentials plan
- Free installed Office applications on PC/Mac
- Office apps on tablets and phones
- Full install versions of all PC/Mac applications on up to five PCs, Macs, tablets and phones per user.
Pricing structure of Skype
Skype offers a number of its services for free, and based on your needs or your business’s usage, there might not be a need to pay for one of the upgraded services.
|Plan||Price (per user)|
|Skype for Business Online – Plan 1|
|Skype for Business Online – Plan 2|
|Office 365 Business Essentials|
|Office 365 Business Premium|
Prices last checked July 2017
An additional feature of Skype: Unlimited world subscription
A fairly new offering, this allows for an unlimited number of minutes to landlines in 63 countries and regions plus landlines and mobile phones in the following eight countries:
- Hong Kong SAR
- Puerto Rico
Pros and cons
With its host of free services and ability to break down international barriers, Skype can be a valuable resource to both individuals and businesses, but some of its practices have been called into question in the past.
- Calling and video conferences are free to anyone using a Skype account.
- Skype’s inclusion in Microsoft 365 offers 24/7 support plus email and file storage bonuses.
- Translation option gives you the power to talk to almost anyone in the world, regardless of sharing a common language.
- Skype makes payment convenient, accepting 14 different methods in Australia.
- The official version of Skype is unavailable in mainland China, as is the feature of calling landlines or mobile numbers in India.
- In 2013, it was revealed Microsoft had secretly given access Skype user data and conversations to the US government’s FBI, CIA, and NSA, resulting in user concerns about privacy.
- Support for Skype on the Apple Watch and Android Wear is listed as “temporarily discontinued” on Skype’s homepage, with no restart date listed.