Skype has announced an alpha version of a new client for Linux. Given Skype’s ownership by Microsoft, will Linux users care?
So Skype on GNU/Linux is finally getting something of an upgrade. This will be welcome news for some. Others will mumble “not on my machine” and go about their business. I can imagine nothing in the FOSS sphere as controversial as running a Microsoft owned product on Linux.
The announcement came about an hour ago via a post on the Skype site after an “exciting news for Linux users” teaser was posted on July 8. An “Alpha version of a new Skype for Linux client” has been released which uses WebRTC, and the Skype folks are eager to find testers for feedback. Downloads are available as both deb packages and RPMs. It’s stressed that this alpha version “is not a fully functioning Skype client as of yet” but it’s promised that a fully functioning version will be available pronto.
According to the announcement, the new client offers the latest and greatest Skype UI, not the antiquated UI and feature set on the current Linux client last updated two years ago. With the client, users “will be able to call your friends and family on the latest versions of Skype on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, but you won’t be able to make or receive calls to and from the previous versions of Skype for Linux (18.104.22.168).”
This wasn’t the only alpha release made by Skype today. The company also announced that users of “Chromebook or Chrome on Linux can now visit web.skype.com and make one-to-one and group voice calls on top of the messaging features they get today.” This alpha release doesn’t include video calling or calls to landlines and mobile devices, which also will be coming soon.
Like many of you, I imagine, I have very mixed feelings about today’s announcement. Anything that increases the functionality of desktop Linux is good for the operating system, I suppose, and users have been frustrated for years by Skype’s lack of Linux support. On the other hand, it’s not easy to get excited about being able to use a Microsoft product on Linux.
Later today or early tomorrow I’ll probably download the new client and see if I can get it running on the Mint 18 installation I’m testing. In the meantime, I’d be interested in hearing the experiences of any of our readers who give it a try.