Skype pulls the plug on Asterisk plug-in

Fears that Microsoft's purchase of Skype may lead to a loss of support for non-Windows platforms appear to have been partially confirmed by the news that the Skype plugin for Asterisk is to be discontinued.

Asterisk, a popular open-source telephone switchboard system, allows users to connect and control a variety of different communications systems - including plain-old telephone lines, digital ISDN lines, and voice over IP connections.

The company that supports Asterisk, Digium, produced a paid-for add-on that allows Asterisk systems to use Skype's voice over IP service - a great facility for businesses that want a more professional way of handling communications via Skype. This plugin relied on a licence from Skype itself - a licence which the company has decided not to renew.

That decision leaves Digium unable to continue development of the Skype plugin - and will potentially lead to those who do use the Skype for Asterisk service scrabbling to find alternatives that meet their needs.

Not everyone is laying the fault at Microsoft's feet, however. Business communications specialist Tim Panton, founder of PhoneFromHere.com, believes that the rot started to set in long before Microsoft came along.

"I’m not one of those who thinks that Microsoft ordered the axing of SFA," he explained. "In retrospect it seems clear that the wheels started falling off almost before the product got rolling. My guess is that Skype had a change of heart between the project’s announcement and beta."

Panton accuses Skype of deliberately hobbling Skype for Asterisk - resisting its development even as it purported to be aiding Digium, and placing unfair restrictions on its use that prevent Asterisk providers from using it in a hosted environment.

"What were they scared of?" Panton wonders. "Openness, I think. This might have made sense if Skype were planning to offer services that competed. But no, they simply didn’t want any software developers in their eco-system.

"Anyway, now it is gone, leaving a bitter sweet aftertaste as a warning to future Skype partners," Panton concludes - suggesting that the axing of Skype for Asterisk may have repercussions for Microsoft's ability to push the platform forward in the future.