Skype for Linux 4.0 officially hits the streets

SAN FRANCISCO — When Microsoft bought Skype just a little over a year ago, Linux fans far and wide feared the worst for Skype for Linux.
After all, Redmond has a long history of less-than-friendly behavior toward Linux and other free and open source software, so it seemed difficult to imagine that the company would expend any effort on maintaining its newly acquired Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) software for Linux users.
Life is full of surprises, however, and last week Microsoft served up one of them. Specifically, it announced on Thursday the official release of Skype 4.0 for Linux, simultaneously moving the software out of beta and skipping several version numbers ahead from the previous Skype 2.2.

‘Four Rooms for Improvement’

“We’d like to thank our Skype for Linux users for your patience awaiting Skype 4.0 for Linux, codenamed ‘Four Rooms for Improvement,’ which is now available,” wrote Skype Linux UI developer Marco Cimmino in the official announcement. “With this release, we have finally filled the gap with our other desktop clients and we are now making many of the latest Skype features, as well as a lot of UI improvements, available to our penguin lovers.”

Four major changes, in fact, are particularly notable in the new release, Cimmino explained. First is a new Conversations View–easily disabled for those who don’t like it–that lets users track all of their chats in a unified window.

Also debuting in Skype 4.0 for Linux is a new Call View, he pointed out.

Call quality has been improved, Cimmino added, as has video call quality, which has also gained extended support for more cameras.

Among the smaller tweaks and improvements in the new software are improved chat synchronization, new presence and emoticon icons, the ability to store and view phone numbers in a Skype contact’s profile, and more.

A World of Alternatives

There’s no denying Microsoft has been making increasing overtures to users of Linux and open source software lately–witness its recent revised stance on Visual Studio Express 2012, for example.
At this point, however, I’m not sure there are many Linux users who feel the need for Skype anymore, particularly now that Microsoft is in charge and now that we have offerings including Google+ chat and hangouts and Google Talk with video.

There are, of course, numerous more open alternatives as well, as I pointed out last year, including Ekiga and others.
What’s your take on this? If you use Linux, will you give the new Skype a try? Please sound off in the comments.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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