How to Access Skype for Business and Teams Services on Linux Computers

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.

Skype for Business Web App Under Linux – Reddit

Skype for Business Video

“What do you mean you can’t turn on video? They must see my cuteness!”
Photo by Pete Bellis on Unsplash

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!

Linux Skype for Business

The Code of Linux grows…
Photo by Sai Kiran Anagani on Unsplash

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.)

Feature Comparison between Skype for Business Desktop Client and Mobile Devices – MS Docs

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.

Linux Lemons

Linux gets some lemons. But it’s good at making lemonade!
Photo by Ernest Porzi on Unsplash

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!

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21 comments:

    1. chris.williams *

      Hi Matt,

      Sorry, I didn’t see your comment at first! A co-worker has an Android phone. He had Skype for Business running on it already. I borrowed it for the test. I have heard of Anbox, but never tried it. Reviews look spotty.

  1. Julian Alarcon

    Hi Chris! Please check again the uservoice topic of the linux client, after one day of multiple complains, this is again in the Backlog.

    Also, Right now it’s possible to use video/audio on Linux! Just have to change the User Agent to MS Edge and use Chrome.

    1. chris.williams *

      Indeed it is! Though this languished on the backlog for quite some time already. It’s very much a “Great if they do it, but don’t hold your breath” thing now.

        1. chris.williams *

          A few tweaks indeed. Looks like a viable workaround, but one that could break fairly easily/require a lot of troubleshooting. Especially across larger organizations. Thanks for suggesting, in any event.

  2. Pingback: Microsoft Teams and Linux

  3. Peter Bernhard

    Great article! In addition to all the IP communications advantages of hosted Skype for Business—Instant Messaging (IM), presence, web conferencing and document sharing—you get PSTN voice with full telecom support from ThinkTel and integration into Office 365.

  4. Belpir

    Hi,
    sorry for my English first.
    You can run Skype for business in every linux distro where Chrome or Firefox browser has been installed.
    Just install an “Android apk” extension to your browser which enables you to run arbitrary Android’s app in your browser.
    for Chrome:
    1. go to the extensions, find & install ARC Welder (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/arc-welder/emfinbmielocnlhgmfkkmkngdoccbadn)
    2. go to the extensions, find and install APK downloader (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/apk-downloader/fgljidimohbcmjdabiecfeikkmpbjegm?hl=en)
    3. open APK downloader in your browser, then find and download “skype for business” to your PC
    4. in your ARC Welder extension open apk file you’ve just downlaoded (skype for business)
    5. now you can run it from ARC welder

    1. chris.williams *

      Thanks for the comment Belpir. Looks like this should work, though with one caveat. As cybersecurity becomes more & more important within business networks, they may block configurations like this. It’s up to each business, of course, which is why I’m glad for the option.

  5. Nils Smeds

    Microsoft has now released a Linux version for Teams. I am still in early testing of what it can and can not do. For instance, I still expect working in parallel on documents will not work due to LibreOffice/OpenOffice/MSOffice interoperability issues?

    1. chris.williams *

      Very likely, Nils. Microsoft will start at interoperability with Office 365 documents only. LibreOffice compatibility, if it ever comes, will come later.

  6. Alexendra Dill

    Yes, I suppose tools like Skype for Business, R-HUB web video conferencing servers, gomeetnow, gotomeeting etc. work on all platforms viz Windows, MAC, Linux, Unix etc.

  7. Pingback: Ubuntu HowTo: How to join Skype for Business meeting on Ubuntu (without Skype for Business account)? - TECHPRPR

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