In the wake of news that Skype will soon be available on Outlook.com, it looks as if Microsoft’s IM and video chat service has pulled support for web-based imo. For several days, users who attempted to log in to Skype through imo were greeted with error messages, and imo has finally posted the following message on its front page:

We are unable to support Skype due to our inability to connect to their servers. We don’t know if we will be able to support Skype any time soon as it depends on factors out of our control.

This news is very significant to Chrome OS users, most of whom have no way to use Skype outside of web-based services such as imo. (A small subset of Chrome OS users put their devices into developer mode and install a more complete distribution of Linux, thus enabling them to download the desktop Linux version of Skype – this method however is definitely not for everyone, could cancel the hardware warranty, and is really reserved for more advanced users. It’s not an adequate solution to the problem.)

To make matters even worse, Microsoft announced that the web-based version of Skype on Outlook.com will require a plug-in that, most likely, won’t be compatible with Chrome OS. In other words, Skype users on Chrome have just lost their ability to use one of the world’s most popular messaging platforms.

It seems quite clear to me that Microsoft’s insistence on the use of a plug-in on Outlook.com, along with dropping support for imo, is an attack on Google’s OS, making it as difficult as possible for people to migrate away from Windows. This reminds me of Microsoft’s similar tactic of only displaying the “lite” version of Outlook Web Access on devices running Chrome OS, in spite of the fact that OWA runs perfectly fine when using a user agent switcher to fool Microsoft into believing you’re running Windows. Perhaps Microsoft is a little more worried about Chrome OS than it’s letting on.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a huge backlash from the Chrome community over this, although there is hope. As of publication, I was able to confirm that IM+ can sign into Skype; however, unlike imo, voice and video calling are disabled. However, if IM+ can find a way to connect to Skype’s servers, then perhaps imo can, too. We’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, has anyone found any alternates for Skype on Chrome OS that allow voice and video calling, and that don’t require entering dev mode?