Microsoft launches new Skype for Linux

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Compared to the current version 7 for Skype on Windows, Microsoft (who bought Skype back in May 2011 for $8.5 billion) started neglecting the Linux desktop client – which is stuck on version 4.3, causing it to become outdated from a design perspective and not entirely functional. This was not a surprise considering Linux is a direct competitor for Microsoft’ Windows operating system.
The real surprise was the moment it was announced there’s a new version of Skype for Linux available. And this one is really new and different. These news shows that Microsoft is finally recognizing the importance of the Linux desktop, even though, for now, it represents only about 2.5% of share market.

Microsoft launched an alpha version of a new client for Linux on 13 July 2016, in a push to get users of the open-source operating system to make video calls and send messages with Skype.
As an alpha version, the new Skype for Linux has a number of drawbacks. For one, you can’t make or take calls to anyone using the previous versions of Skype for Linux (v4.3.0.37), and if you were hoping to be able to place video calls you’re similarly out of luck.

Things that are NOT supported in the Skype for Linux alpha:

  • Video calls
  • Calling telephone numbers
  • Sending SMS messages
  • Desktop screen sharing
  • Buying Skype credit
  • Adding new people to an existing call
  • Changing audio device settings
  • Support for running two clients at once
  • 32-bit Linux support

Things that are supported:

  • Instant messaging (including group instant messages)
  • One-to-one voice calls
  • Group voice calls
  • Add contacts
  • Use new emoticon packs
  • Call forwarding
  • Sharing contacts
  • Allows you to access 30 days of conversation history

Skype caution that the alpha release is ‘not a fully functioning Skype client as of yet’ and that more features will arrive in the near future. They’ve said video calling is a priority, and that they’ll be looking at ways to improve integration with Linux desktop features, such as native notifications. More information about available features you can find it on Skype’s website.

Another feature announced Wednesday was the alpha version of Skype based on WebRTC (web real-time communication is an open source initiative that lets internet users communicate in real time through voice and video — simply by using a Real-Time Communications (RTC) compatible browser — and negates the need to install plugins). Video calling and calls to landlines and mobiles are “coming soon” to Chrome browsers in Linux and sometime in the coming weeks and months to Chromebooks, officials said in a blog post. Skype for Web is running on Microsoft Edge without any plugin installation and it seems that the WebRTC Web-based version allows people to make calls ONLY in Google Chrome. You can check this out. If you open web.skype.com, authenticate with your user name, you will see the difference between the two browsers. In Firefox, you cannot make any calls yet, while this is possible in Chrome.
With the new Skype for Linux Alpha you can call people using the Skype clients for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Skype for Web, but you won’t be able to call those who still use the old Skype for Linux. This is because the new app uses Skype’s “next generation calling architecture”, Microsoft says.

If you are a Linux user, you can download Skype for Linux Alpha DEB here and Skype for Linux Alpha RPM here. The DEB package has been tested on Ubuntu 16.04, Ubuntu Gnome 16.04, and Debian 8.5. The RPM package has been tested on Fedora 23, OpenSuse KDE 13.2, and OpenSuse Leap 42.1 KDE.