If you told me to count the number of times I’m asked whether Skype can run on a Chromebook I’d fast run out of fingers, toes and other body parts — but a solution is (sort of) in sight.
Popularity breeds dependence, and for Microsoft’s video, voice and messaging service that’s doubly so. It’s become an indispensable part of many day-to-day workflows, be it checking in on loved ones or having a business meeting.
But for Chromebook owners accessing the voice and video calling features of Skype is not officially possible.
Enter Android Apps for Chrome
The recent arrival of Android Apps on Chrome OS — both officially and unofficially — changes the answer one used to have to give to those asking. The reticent “sadly not” has been traded for a caveated ‘…ish’.
Officially, Google has thus far brought over 4 Android apps to Chrome OS, all running through the Android Runtime for Chrome.
The release of a modified version of this extension — Archon — allows for virtually any Android app to be run through Chrome, and that includes Skype.
Let’s address the green elephant in the room: Google Hangouts. This is the oft-mentioned ‘Skype alternative’ for Chrome users, and not without merit. Hangouts is available on all platforms, with official mobile apps and plugins available. It has a feature set that more than matches that of Skype.
The problem is that getting people — i.e., those familiar with Skype — to use it is hard. That makes Skype for Android for Chrome a tempting stopgap.
If you have Skype for Android installed on your phone or tablet you can use the Chrome APK Packager to bundle the Skype for Android app into a compatible Chrome format.
Too much hard work? A user by the handle of ‘SebDroid’ has (unofficially) converted the Skype app for Chrome OS and made it available for download.
While it remains a far from flawless solution — it crashes, call connection is temperamental when it connects and there’s a performance hit — it is a solution. Certainly easier than bullying relatives into using something new, or giving over half of an already small SSD to a Linux distribution.
Until Microsoft decide otherwise this app is the closest we’re going to get. Seb’s workaround is not supported by Microsoft, Google or the Chromium development team.
To use it you’ll need both the ARChon Custom Runtime from GitHub and the ‘Skype for ChromeOS’ extension, both installed as unpacked extensions.
As we’re fond of reiterating: there are potential legal implications involved in the modification and redistribution of Android apps without explicit permission of the copyright holder(s).
While it is unlikely that Microsoft will sue anyone for this approach, they’re unlikely to be thrilled by it.
You can find more information, installation steps and download links at the link below.