Back in July, Microsoft announced through their community channel that they had been working on a version of Skype for Linux.
This isn’t the first time that Linux has had Skype, but it is the first evidence that Microsoft are giving it at least a little bit of attention. The last available download for Linux was back around 2012. Downloading it now on anything but an old 32-bit system will be all but futile. However, this still stands as the ‘official’ Linux download for Skype.
In the Ballmer era, Linux really was a cancerous communist evil that should be purged from the ends of the earth, however now that our favourite follically challenged buffoon has left the Seattle shores, Satya Nadella seems to have a whole new way of running the ship. Indeed, it wasn’t that long ago that Redmond rallied SQL ‘sort of’ Server for Linux, and declared their Love for Linux (yep, Satya Nadella really did say that!).
Downloading Skype Alpha for Linux is a bit tricky to find, so here’s the link. If you run Debian, Ubuntu or an alike system, click the DEB download button. If you are using Fedora, SuSE or another Red Hat based distribution, use the RPM button.
You should be able to install it by double-clicking on the deb file (or RPM) that you download from the Microsoft website, however if you have issues with that, you can always type: sudo dpkg -i skypeforlinux-64-alpha.deb at the command line.
Is it any good?
Truthfully, it’s about as good as you would expect software in alpha quality to be, and it’s in-keeping with what you’d expect a modern piece of Microsoft software to look like. It looks a lot like Skype for the web, which is a version you can use anywhere you like from a web browser. Cynical minds would possibly believe that this is the web version, just wrapped up in a Linux container.
On running Skype for the first time, it spun the fan up on the laptop like it was trying to turn it into a hovercraft and skim the surface of the Seattle shoreline. In a minute or so, the fans went back to launch control and the laptop didn’t disintegrate into a ball of indistinguishable molten plastic, but the CPU still kept relatively high on an i7 HP laptop running Chrome and not a lot else. 4 CPUs ticked over at around 10-15% CPU utilisation, the load average around 0.6 when the program was sitting in the background. Skype is like one of those programs that like to run in the background all of the time, because, well, Like my mother’s cell phone, people can’t really call you if it’s switched off! This may be a consideration for the more mobile laptop users who need to look after their precious battery cells. The CPU fires up again when making a call.
Haters gonna hate?
The performance might be a little questionable, but it isn’t a bad app at all. For the more open source purists out there, there is an unofficial skype client called Ghetto Skype. It is a skype-web wrapper which integrates well with a Linux (eg Ubuntu) desktop look and feel. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do video calls yet. So. Err…
In many people’s eyes this is the dawning of much Linux loving from Microsoft to come. Are they planning world domination from within? Are they secretly trying to install some malware on our Linux boxes entitled ‘MSWINDOWS.EXE?’. Regardless, the haters are gonna hate, but Microsoft Love Love Love Linux 😉