Pondering the future of Skype

Signs of life on Linux version, but is it too late?

There is still a healthy bit of distrust in the Linux community for Skype, which is saying something, considering that even before Microsoft purchased the company just over one year ago, feelings about Skype for Linux were decidedly mixed.

A recent post on one of the Skype forums about the not-so-doomed future of Skype on the Linux platform and an incremental beta release has stirred up some of those old feelings once again.

Currently, Skype for Linux has been sitting at v2.2 beta since pretty much forever, but on May 11, the stable release version of Skype for penguin lovers was updated to v2.2.0.99… which would seem to indicate that the coming of a non-beta release is definitely on the horizon.

One day later, a Skype community manager responded to a user inquiry about the fate of Skype on the Linux platform.

"Development hasn't stopped. We are still working towards the next update. Can't share an ETA though. We'll release 'when it's done'," the CM known as Claudius wrote.

Responses on that particularly forum thread fell in the disappointment end of the spectrum, from users who don't appreciate corporate-marketing-speak. But the two minor shifts taken together may indicate that there is indeed an RC or gold release of Skype for Linux coming in the near future.

Now the question is: will anyone care?

This is not, truly, a slam on Skype, or even their new corporate owners Microsoft. I personally like Skype and still have enough contacts in my personal and work networks who use it that I keep it around.

Skype's presence on Linux has never been really all that accepted… many in the community resented its proprietary nature, and only grudgingly installed it if they had to. As Michael Larabel recently pointed out on Phoronix, the Free Software Foundation is trying to shepherd free-software Skype replacement projects, but with little success thus far.

Like some in the community, though, I find myself gravitating to other chat/video-chat services… not the least of which being the Gtalk features embedded in services like Gmail and Google Plus. That these services all share my contacts' info already makes this transition easier all the time. Which, I am sure, is the whole idea.

Skype on Linux--and indeed Skype in general--may be about to take a serious hit in the market. Clearly Microsoft acquired the company to compete with Google and Facebook juggernauts, but may have pulled yet-another too-little too-late move. I am personally withholding a prediction on this, because Microsoft still could complete a Hail Mary pass and actually build a successful cloud/social/touchy-feely offering.

But as anyone who's ever gone up against Google and Facebook knows, if you don't move fast, you could die. Skype needs to drop downloaded clients altogether, and become a web-only SaaS platform accessible to all. Until that happens, I have my doubts about the future of Skype on any platform.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Zettatag and Open for Discussion blogs and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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