Qik, a popular streaming mobile video service, has finally opened its public beta program and has released a slew of new features to go along with it. This is great news considering last month tech pundit Robert Scoble declared Qik all but dead in the wake newcomer Kyte.
The noise began when Scoble boldly predicted via TechCrunch that Kyte was going to kill Qik (and Flixwagon) because of its integration capabilities, better handset availability and other features. Many (like me) didn't agree then and many (like me) don't agree now. The folks in least agreement seem to be the people over at Qik. According to co-founder Bhaskar Roy, Qik usage stats are still clipping along at a fast rate, even in invitation-only alpha. The chart below from Compete.com shows that from a video consumption perspective, Qik is being more frequented by watchers than Kyte. [Update 7/21/2008 10:18 a.m. An error was made with site comparison. Kyte.tv is the service site, not Kyte.com. While the graphic and Compete.com link have been updated the original point is still correctly illustrated]:
Some may argue that more people were visiting the Qik site versus the Kyte site out of necessity due to Kyte's more expansive distribution, so I'm not citing those stats as scientific proof of one service's popularity over another. I just want to prove that Qik is not only nowhere near dead, is it anywhere near dying, either.
Let's take a look at some of the new features:
- Facebook integration - Kyte was the first to debut a direct-to-Facebook application but now Qik has one, too. As with Kyte's application, Qik's Facebook integration allows users to stream live video from their phones directly to their profiles. Qik already offered similar integration for MySpace and Orkut.
- Expanded distribution - Qik is now usable on multiple phones and through multiple mobile networks. The company claims to support more than 30 handsets (with alpha iPhone support starting soon) and is now compatible with Verizon and Sprint handsets (Qik previously could only be used with T-Mobile and AT&T).
- Groups - Roy says that during Qik's alpha period the company found that people want to broadcast into microcommunities. The new groups will allow for segmenting and privacy options so that people can create videos for specific interest groups, or even just family and friends versus work videos. This will all be permissions-based.
- Self-service event management - Qik has been used at a variety of large conferences. The event streaming has historically either been informal or set up on the back-end by Qik staff. With the new self-service feature anyone, including a host of a family reunion or the marketing go-getter behind a giant user conference, can set up an event via Qik where videos can be appropriately aggregated. A service that others might charge for is currently free with Qik.
Even while there is a perceived mobile video battle neither company sees the other as a real competitor -- at least to its business model. Kyte sells pre-roll space and allows rebranding of its Kyte video player for advertising dollars. As of last Friday, Roy maintained that Qik will not move to an ad-based revenue model and will continue to be free for its users, at least for basic capabilities. In the future, Roy says, the service may consider charging for service enhancements or for some commercial services but it wants to remain a transparent service for its users and integration partners. Which model is more lucrative? Since both of these approaches are greenfield only time will tell which monetization approach proves more successful.
Again, Qik is not dead. It's now open to anyone, it has new shiny features and more on the way (look for live streaming from phone-to-phone and integration with game consoles in the future) and a broader distribution network.
If you needed further proof that Scoble was wrong in declaring Qik a goner? Check out his July 12 posted video interview with Congressman John Culberson -- filmed using Qik.