Want to access Skype for Business or Teams on Linux? You’re not alone. I wrote a post back in 2014 titled, “Lync on Linux: How to Access Lync Services on Linux Computers.” It remains one of the most-read posts on this blog today, almost 4 years later.
I decided to revisit the topic after seeing that in my analytics. What kind of Linux-based tools did we get (if any) since then? I’ll include Teams in this post too, since that’s where Skype for Business is (mostly) heading. Let’s see what the Linux landscape holds, shall we?
The Big Question: Did Microsoft Make a Skype for Business for Linux? Will They?
First, the bad news: We still don’t have a Linux version of the Skype for Business app.
Installing Skype for Business on Linux – Microsoft Community
A check on the Office 365 roadmap confirms zero items related to Linux. People definitely want it though, according to this SkypeFeedback.com thread:
Linux Desktop Client for Skype for Business – SkypeFeedback.com
Given the dearth of results, I don’t think we’ll ever get a full-version Skype for Business Linux client. But that doesn’t mean we close the door. Other options do exist, in varying categories of usability.
What kind of tools are out there? Desktop clients do exist. Web apps as well, in case those don’t work or have too few features. Let’s not forget the Android platform as well…more people use Android than iOS worldwide.
Linux-Based Skype for Business Tools, and How Usable They Are
1. Skype for Business Web App
Can you use the ‘official’ Skype for Business Web App on a Linux computer? Not…really.
The Web App installs a browser plugin to work. Said plugin, unfortunately, only works on Windows. You can install a Windows VM and use the Web App. But at that point, you might as well install the desktop client! As such, this is a ‘just barely’ option.
2. Tel.Red Sky Linux App
Tel.Red has built & maintained a Linux client for Skype for Business for several years. They call it Sky Linux. There’s a free version with call limits. Full versions costs $49/year per user…quite reasonable.
I put this in the “not bad” category. It DOES work, in most cases. It’s missing some meetings-related and call-related features though, such as delegates and video-based screen sharing.
3. Pidgin+SIPE Plugin
This solution lands in the “OK, a bit clunky” category. As I mentioned in the 2014 article, the Pidgin IM client has a Linux version.
It does not natively support Skype for Business communications. For that, you’ll need the SIPE plugin.
With the two working in tandem, you can connect to Skype for Business servers and chat. One caveat though…the SIPE plugin hasn’t received an update since February of last year. Which means it may not like working with the newest sharing & meeting features. Your mileage may vary, depending on configuration.
Still, it’s a good effort, and I want to commend the SIPE developers for their work. Add-ons like these can fuel huge growth in software capabilities—something very worth our support!
4. Android App
This goes in the “Best Option” category. You’ll get the most features and the easiest install/configuration.
Yes, Skype for Business does have an Android app! Skype for Business – Google Play
The app does have limitations of course…you can’t present a program from Android, do Consultative Transfer, or use meeting tools like the whiteboard. (In fairness, the iOS app has most of the same limitations.)
Its latest version seems plagued by login troubles though. Frustrating, but the app still beats other options for native Linux functionality.
What About Teams on Linux? Much More Accessible
When it comes to Linux, Microsoft Teams is another matter. Because Teams runs in the Azure cloud, you can get to it in a browser on Linux. You may not have full feature access though; our good friend Tom Arbuthnot reports that Teams doesn’t have audio/video support on Linux. You may get audio if you use Chrome, according to Tom’s comments.
Microsoft says a native Linux client for Teams is “on the backlog.” Which explains why it doesn’t show on the O365 roadmap either.
UPDATE 10-17-18: Aaaand Microsoft pulled the plug on a Linux client for Teams. Sorry folks. Wish they hadn’t done that. But they did.
UPDATE 11-1-18: Microsoft updated their plans to put a Linux Teams client back ‘on the backlog.’ So far, that’s all they’ve done. No more progress reports since.
However, the Teams Android app is going strong. It just got an upgrade in fact: Microsoft Teams for Android Updated with New Call-Related Features – MS Power User
While I’m glad Teams works on Linux, it appears the Android app carries even more functionality. So your best bet for Teams on Linux is to use that!
Teams Made Further Linux Progress Than Skype for Business
In the 2014 post I joked that more Skype-related development would come…mostly from the Linux community. Now, I wasn’t wrong! But with Teams eventually supplanting Skype for Business, and Android apps getting more focus, Microsoft’s definitely paying SOME attention to the Linux side of things.
That said, we have a Windows desktop client for Skype for Business and Teams. We have iOS and Android apps for Skype for Business and Teams. We do not have a native Linux client for Skype for Business or Teams. Will we get one? Maybe for Teams. For Skype for Business? Probably not.
What’s your Linux/Skype for Business/Teams situation?
UPDATE 3: A commenter pointed out a Github project: Teams for Linux (Unofficial). Essentially, a wrapper for the Teams Web app. It has several known issues, but does provide a desktop alternative for Linux users. Thanks developers!