Microsoft Modernizes Skype for Linux, Courts Chromebook Users

The Linux version of the software is finally getting a long-awaited overhaul. Meanwhile, Chromebook users can now make voice calls by using Skype on the Web.


While Skype on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android now sports a more modern look and feel, time has stood still on the Linux side of the fence for two years.

Skype 4.3 for Linux was released in June 2014 without a major update since. Meanwhile, there has been no shortage of updates and user interface (UI) enhancements for its counterparts on other platforms. This week, Microsoft offered Linux users an early peek at the new Skype experience that awaits them in the coming months.

The new Skype for Linux client is based on WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication), the browser-based audio, video and content-sharing technology. Apart from the software's new Web-inspired underpinnings, early testers can take the new UI for a spin, but with some limitations.

"As you may have guessed by the name, Skype for Linux Alpha is not a fully functioning Skype client yet," said Claudius Henrichs, a Microsoft Skype community manager, in a June 13 announcement. "Once you've downloaded the app, you'll notice that it's very different from the Skype for Linux client you use today. For example, you'll be using the latest, fast and responsive Skype UI, you can share files, photos and videos and send a whole new range of new emoticons."

While users can call others who are using the latest versions of Skype on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, the software is incompatible with the previous versions of Skype for Linux, added Henrichs. According to an online support document, other missing features currently include video calling, SMS messaging and public switched telephone network (PSTN) capabilities used to call landlines and cellphones. Microsoft hopes to update the client every few weeks and indicated that video calling will be among the first couple of updates.

Microsoft also rolled out a new alpha Skype experience for Chromebook users and users of the Google Chrome browser on Linux. The Web-based software is similar to the Skype for Linux Alpha and is Available at on Missing features, like video calling and the capability to dial landlines and mobile phones, are in the works for future updates, said Henrichs.

On the lighter side of things, the company also rolled out new Mojis from the Monty Python comedy group for Skype this week. Mojis are short video snippets from films and TV shows that users can drop into their chats to spice up their conversations with friends.

Skype users can now embed 37 moments from Monty Python movies, including Holy Grail, Life of Brian and Flying Circus, with more to come, announced Microsoft on July 14.

"We welcome Moji Python's magic moments," said Michael Palin, actor and Monty Python member, in a statement. "It's easy to forget how gown-breaking and auspicious Monty Python was and how well, millions of years later, these ice-cream culinary moments stand up. Unlike most of the team. Please help us. Thank you."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...