Interview with Qik Co-Founder Bhaskar Roy: Competition, iPhone, and Android

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This morning I had the opportunity to have a chat with Bhaskar Roy, Co-Founder and VP of Product Management of Qik, a popular live video casting application available on most major mobile platforms. It’s not the first time we’ve interviewed him but, with competition at an all time high, I figured it was time to check back in.

The interview was conducted over IM and later formatted to fit within the traditional Q&A structure.

We last spoke to you way back in june, when you were getting ready to launch Qik on a few windows mobile devices. Whats new? Whats going on in the world of Qik?

A number of things. We now support Blackberry (alpha stage) as a smartphone platform. We also have support for a number of J2ME (java-enabled) devices (these are the feature phones that are typically given away by carriers), and for (jailbroken) iPhones. What you’ll notice is that we are starting to play around with location support.. people can instantly know where a person is streaming from (of course with the permission of the user) and to what detail they want to show that.

So essentially we are adding more devices, and seeing more of mass market pickup of our service. Users are starting to use Qik more as a communication service to share what they are doing live with their friends and family.

How have client downloads been? Any numbers you can share?

I cant share exact details – but what I can say is that we have over 100k users using the service from more than 150 countries. [Another] thing that we have done is made it really simple for anyone to get up and running. Basically you can go to http://d.qik.com from your phone and, if your phone is supported, it will prompt you and get you up and running in seconds.

We are seeing a shift of viewing videos from phones. People are viewing quite a few qiks directly from their phones (since we now have a WAP site, and an iPhone-optimized site)

Can we expect an Android port any time soon?

The challenge with G1 is that it does not inherently support video capturing. We are looking at it to figure out their roadmap around video, and we’ll then see how we can take advantage of the platform.

Which platform is proving to be the most popular for Qik so far?

That depends very much on a country level. Here in US we are seeing more WM, iPhone and BB adoption. Overall I’d say that WM, S60, iPhone are the leaders.

Speaking of the iPhone: What’s the status of Qik on the iPhone? Video recording and the App Store don’t generally mix, and last I heard it hadn’t been submitted for Apple’s approval yet. Has that changed? Are there actual intents on getting the Qik app into the store, or do you expect it to stay jailbreak-only?

We have not submitted to app store yet. There are a few things we are working on. Once those items are completed we’ll figure out next steps with the app store, but the intent is to release this app in App Store for all iPhone users

Any indication from Cupertino as to whether they’d let Qik through?

Don’t know, as we have not even tried that yet.

Last we spoke, you mentioned that an expecting mother had streamed the birth-giving process to her husband through Qik. Has anything crazy like that happened since?

We have had more births, weddings. Also, now the media around the Pope uses Qik to capture Pope travels. We have Ashton Kutcher using qik

Who gets more viewers, Kutcher or the Pope?

[Laughs] Let me check their profiles, hold on.

H2onews is the media company for Vatican. Oh also recently – Victoria Secret backstage was covered using Qik (http://qik.com/blog/273/victorias-secret-fashion-show–backstage-exclusive), and the BBC has been using this for getting citizen’s voice as as a part of the BBC Have Your Say project.

You guys have a number of competitors. Why should someone new to the mobile life casting world go with Qik?

Firstly, mobile broadcasting is just one of the things that people do. We are finding people using this more for communications than broadcasting – especially now with the ability to playback videos from the phone, etc. (Example: Someone receiving a SMS can play the recorded video right from their phone without having to go to a computer at all)

There are a number of technical differentiators we have, like:

  • Broadest range of phone coverage. Doing this on N95 is one thing, but doing it across all S60 devices (that have different CPU processing powers, battery levels, camera specs) is another. Then on top of that add other platforms Windows Mobile (which has its own variants of PocketPC vs smartphone and from different manufacturers that have their own specs). Then take iPhone, Blackberry, J2ME.
  • We still have the least latency + best quality (can do 640×480 SD quality over WiFi or 3.5g)
  • Live is only one aspect – being able to have a high quality video after the fact is another (We have a patent filed on this)
  • We are the only ones who cover the situation where if your battery dies in the middle or for some reason your video does not get uploaded. We can automatically detect this next time you start and send that out (patent filed on this)
  • We’ve also filed a patent on the way streaming can be done through J2ME phones as Java does not inherently allow it

Finally – we have built it as a complete platform (rather than destination) so that anyone can integrate Qik mobile live streaming into their apps. People can stream live to their own flash players rather than ours, like we do with our partner Mogulus, where users don’t even know that it is a Qik stream they are watching getting broadcasted to the Mogulus flash player

So broadly speaking 3 areas where we do well: (a) Phone coverage, (b) Technology of live streaming from phones itself from disparate platforms and taking care of various conditions, (c) Platform approach to enable mobile live streaming to any site any social network and any Flash Player.

By the way – another point in the details: We are the only one that has shown live streaming from both GSM and CDMA networks. We support even Verizon and Sprint networks here in US (CDMA), while the others require you to be on AT&T or T-mobile (GSM).

I’m sure you saw yesterday that Ustream.tv is planning on entering the mobile scene. Any response?

They are approaching this from a broadcast point rather than communication like we are. The main thing here is that we are building Qik as a platform for people to share live video from their phones to their friends and family and their world, such that it can be consumed and experienced from the web and other devices and create a level of interaction therein. Ustream and others are building this out as a destination site for live broadcasting

What’s next for Qik?

You’ll see us marching down the path of enabling people to share live experiences from their phones to any connected device, and building out the platform even further to enable anyone and everyone to build mobile live streaming as a part of their site or product offerings.

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