Skype has announced the release of a new beta that updates its group video calling feature with support for up to ten simultaneous users -- up from five on the previous beta. The feature is being offered as a "free trial," but users will eventually have to pay for the service, which will likely be aimed at companies looking to increase productivity while reducing expenses by enabling face-to-face communication with employees, customers and partners remotely.

Besides 10-way video calling the new version also comes with offline messaging, improves both the quality and reliability of calls, and a revamped user interface that Skype says is sleeker, neater, and crisper than before. In addition, a new Home area will offer updates about the service, details on your call purchases, and will let you keep tabs on your contacts' mood messages or set your own. You can learn a bit more about the latest beta at Skype's website or download it here.

The 10-person group video call feature comes as Skype faces new competition from Google, which added a feature to its Gmail service that allows users to make calls to phones. For now, Google is allowing free calls in the U.S. and Canada.