LONDON and PALO ALTO, Calif., Nov. 8, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Skype today launched to the public Skype in the workspace (SITW), a new online platform for small businesses to instantly connect with potential customers, partners and suppliers across the globe. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20000822/MSFTLOGO) The free-to-use tool makes use of the huge network already offered by Skype, allowing millions of small businesses to promote their products and services to new networks and connections. Users can improve existing connections and establish new ones by instantly sending messages and talking to or meeting face-to-face with peers and business prospects over Skype. The SITW community is already active because today's launch comes at the end of a six-month beta trial, which enabled 500 businesses, offering more than 140 different services, to sign up, try out and test the platform. "With more than 280 million connected users each month, Skype offers a huge range of contacts for the small-business community," said Ural Cebeci, head of SMB Marketing at Skype. "We aim to connect millions of small businesses with Skype in the workspace and believe that, by taking advantage of this shared network, businesses can develop the range of tools they need to grow, regardless of location or industry. From the designer in San Francisco looking to source textile suppliers in Thailand to the London consultant connecting with clients in Milan, the possibilities are endless." SITW will provide a central hub for entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses to connect with experts, coaches and consultants who can help them develop their businesses. Users join the community using their existing Skype accounts, then through a series of promotional tools can create public "offers" or "opportunities" inviting community members to live sessions on Skype to demonstrate services or products to a wider audience. Users can also book appointments with potential customers or suppliers and keep track of them with a meeting notification service. When an opportunity is over, users can instantly give testimonials on the product or service offered. "Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy," Cebeci said. "For these businesses to survive and grow in what is still a tough economic climate, we understand that good communication and connections are key to their success.