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Tuesday, 14 February 2017 09:44

Microsoft loves Linux. But not Skype for Linux


More than six months after Microsoft released an alpha version of its new Skype for Linux, the software still suffers from very basic issues.

First, let me make it plain that if Microsoft had decided to junk Skype for Linux at the time when it decided to redesign the client, I would have no complaint. A commercial company is free to produce what software it wants and drop whatever does not net it a return.

When Linux users were critical of the alpha client in its early days, I took up cudgels on behalf of Microsoft, something I rarely do.

But after deciding to keep offering a client for Linux, it should not be left at this very basic stage. Is it too much to ask that after six months, one does not have to input one's credentials every third time one starts up the client?

Is it too much to ask that one's data does not suddenly appear and disappear, seemingly on a whim? It is a time-consuming process to use the new Skype client and all those claims of being able to do more with Microsoft offerings rings rather hollow.

When one is using Skype for the basics as this writer does, there is an escape route: the old version for Linux which is based on the Skype that was created by the original European users.

That is what I have done. But that means that the basic purpose of releasing an alpha client is lost; users are supposed to provide feedback for improvement and if one is not using the client, then the question of providing feedback is moot.

Since July, Skype has provided its fair share of headaches for users. There are periodical connection issues and very poor communication about fixes. The Skype Twitter feed is updated sporadically.

The other source of information, the Skype Heartbeat page, rarely has any good news. Microsoft always says it is working on some issue or the other.

The issues with Skype are beginning to look very much like the Nokia fiasco, a Microsoft phenomenon where it splashes out billions on acquiring other companies but, in the end, is unable to make a go of monetising the technology it bought.

Perhaps Microsoft has too many irons in the fire to ever sort out Skype and give it a semblance of the stability and features it displayed under its original owners. That is not a worry, but some clarity on the direction this dog and pony show is taking would be welcome.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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