Well, the Linux bloggers down at the blogosphere’s Broken Windows Lounge had just barely finished chanting Skype’s funeral dirge last week when word came that there might be reason to belt out another round.
Sure enough, turned out Skype has decided to cut its ties with the free and open source Asterisk telephony system, leaving Microsoft’s new VoIP offering with one fewer FOSSy friend to worry about supporting — and leaving Asterisk users with one fewer option for Skype integration.
Readers with sharp hearing may have heard the indignant cries bellowing forth throughout the hills and dales of the Linux blogosphere last week; all others are surely hearing them now.
‘Proof That Microsoft Can’t Be Trusted’
“I told you so,” wrote Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols on ZDNet, for example. “I knew that Steve Ballmer could talk all he wanted about how Microsoft would continue to support non-Microsoft platforms, but that there was no way he’d actually do it.”
Similarly: “In one move, we have illustrated the risk of a hybrid open source model, the danger of dependency on a proprietary system, a proof that Microsoft still can’t be trusted with open source and an impetus to open source innovation,” wrote Simon Phipps over at Computerworld UK. “All in one announcement.”
Like-minded thoughts were expressed over PCWorld and elsewhere, but it wasn’t long before Skype itself spoke out to assert that the move had been in the works long before the Microsoft acquisition.
Such reassurances were met with a healthy amount of skepticism, to be sure, but then — as if the world needed more Skype-related news — there came the Great Outage, and many eyes turned toward Redmond yet again.
So what’s going on here? Just a series of unfortunate events — or something more sinister? Linux Girl took to the streets of the blogosphere to find out.
‘I Wonder Why They Bothered’
“Well that didn’t take them long, did it?” said consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack, referring to the Asterisk decision. “I only wonder why they even bothered with the charade of not screwing over other platforms given the short time they planned to start.”
Of course, Skype has said that “it is moving to SIP for integration with other products,” noted Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project.
If that’s true, it would be “a very welcome move,” he added. “Such a change would mean greater interoperability.”
‘I Am Not Holding My Breath’
In the meantime, “it will be interesting to see what happens; I am not holding my breath,” Travers said. “While Microsoft has become better at interop in the last decade, they still pull stupid crap from time to time.”
The real question, though, is, “Why did Microsoft buy Skype?” Travers mused. “Without an answer to that question it is very hard to say.”
As for the crash, “I am concerned due to the fact that only the Windows client had a update to fix the problem.”
‘No Doubt M$ Will Break Skype’
Blogger Robert Pogson took a similar view.
“This is another demonstration that M$ rarely innovates,” Pogson told LinuxInsider. “Leveraging the monopoly on the desktop, it uses the resulting cash to buy competitors and to absorb them or to destroy them.”
Skype had the potential “to compete with Phoney ‘7’ or to add feature-bloat to that other OS,” Pogson added. “By buying Skype out, M$ gets more control of IT of all kinds.
“No doubt M$ will break Skype and mess with everyone that uses Skype, so other means of VoIP and conferencing will be developed in the FLOSS world,” he predicted.
‘An Incentive to Try Other Services’
Indeed, “Bill Gates urged the Microsoft Board of Directors to get behind the Skype deal,” noted Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site. “Let me adjust my tin foil hat … the plan is for Steve Ballmer to continue to destroy Microsoft’s value so that in a few years Bill Gates will be able to buy his old company with his pocket change.”
It makes “about as much sense as paying over $9 billion [including Skype’s debt] for money-losing Skype,” Hudson asserted. “Of course, what’s really going on is Ballmer rearranging the deck chairs.”
The silver lining around the situation, however, “is that people now have an incentive to try other software and services,” Hudson suggested. “We’ve already seen Google embedding chat, voice and video calling in the browser — how soon before email programs and Facebook offer the same functionality?”
‘Who Would Blame MSFT?’
Slashdot blogger and Windows fan hairyfeet saw it differently.
“Who really would blame MSFT if they DID withdraw Linux support?” hairyfeet asked. “What has every. single. article. been since the announced purchase: ‘What is a product to replace Skype?’ The Linux community has made it pretty clear if MSFT were to show up at the local LUG with free beer and chocolates, they would throw them in the trash rather than be ‘tainted’ by MSFT.”
In other words, he concluded, “why in the world would you expect a company to support a userbase that A) doesn’t want their products, even if they are free; B) considers those products ‘tainted’ and refuses to allow any talk of them other than ‘what can I use to replace it?'”
I, for one, am a bit concerned about Skype’s future. Microsoft has a history of cannibalism — leaving a long stream of gutted carcasses in its wake. That’s not the great sin some in the Linux community want to make it out to be — it’s just MS’s version of "innovation", and it’s been a very successful business model for Redmond.
Will MS dismantle Skype for its technology? It would be entirely within character.
Skype’s Linux support has always been unenthusiastic at best; the Linux client has been at least a full version behind its Windows counterpart for years. I’ll be surprised if the Linux client isn’t one of the early casualties of the take-over.