Robert has been one of the earliest adopters of cell phone video, which offers the ability to stream live to the Internet, with the primary tradeoff being relatively poor video quality. He’s extensively tested all of the major emerging services in this area, including Kyte, Qik and Flixwagon, among others.
This is a post I didn’t want to write. Why? For the last six months I’ve been using Qik’s live video service off of my cell phone. I’m the top user there, with most views, most videos, and all that. I’ve used that service to take videos inside the first production Tesla, Annie Leibovitz as she showed us around her latest photos of famous people, Google press conferences, Ansel Adams’ son at the top of Glacier Point in Yosemite, Bono at the World Economic Forum, and more than 700 other videos as well.
Qik has done something remarkable: it put a TV studio in my pocket. I can get live video onto the Internet faster than I can make a phone call (Qik takes two clicks to start streaming, a phone call takes 12 clicks on my phone’s keypad). Even better, while doing a video you can watch live and you can send text chat messages to my phone while I am filming. While we were racing around Santa Monica in Elon Musk’s new Tesla (he’s the chairman of the board and was giving us a killer demo) we had hundreds of people watching my cell phone along with Jason Calacanis’ phone, which was shooting the same view from his Corvette alongside. As Elon was driving we had hundreds of people asking questions about the new Tesla. This was interactivity the world had never seen.
At the same time a company in Israel, FlixWagon, has been competing with Qik. I liked FlixWagon too. The quality on their video was slightly better than Qik’s although I went with Qik because they had a better live experience, at least on my phone. Other cell phone videographers, though, like Sarah Meyers loved Flixwagon. When I visited Israel recently I interviewed the Flixwagon guys and they are whip smart and really nice too.
Which gets me to why this is the post I never wanted to write. I have been treated absolutely wonderfully by the Qik team. They call me often, make sure I’m having a great experience, and have fixed many of the problems I have been having as I push their service into places it simply wasn’t really designed for. My interview with Annie Liebovitz, for instance, was done in a museum that had absolutely no wifi or cell phone service. So, I used up every bit of memory on my phone and gingerly carried my cell phone back outside where it started sending information again. I’ve had AT&T’s 3G service die right in the middle of many of my interviews (most troublingly right in the middle of an interview with Sun Microsystems’ CEO Jonathan Schwartz) and Qik got on those problems quickly.
Anyway, back to the fight between Kyte, Qik, and Flixwagon over your cell phone video experience. Last year I was Kyte’s top user too. Why did I switch to Qik? Because I saw that cell phone video would let me extend my brand into places no other video network was letting me get to. I was the only one doing cell phone videos from the World Economic Forum, for instance, something that got me a lot of attention and followers. I told Kyte’s CEO, Daniel Graf, tons of times over the past seven months to get video streaming into his product. At first he resisted, thinking it wasn’t that big a deal, but on Friday I finally tested it out on my cell phone and was impressed enough to give Kyte a second look.
That led me to this post. Here’s why I think Kyte will dominate over Qik and Flixwagon:
- The distribution system that Kyte has built is much better than either Qik or Flixwagon. Translation: the embeddable player that Kyte.tv has is much better than Qik or Flixwagon, more on that in a second.
- The chat room that Kyte has built is much better than Qik or Flixwagon and can be participated in from other cell phones, something that Qik and Flixwagon can’t do.
- The ability to mix videos from your webcam, live videos streaming from your web cam, recorded videos from camcorders, or from places like YouTube, along with both recorded and streamed videos from your cell phone goes way beyond what Qik and Flixwagon have done today.
- Kyte.tv can play videos on an iPhone today. Neither Qik or Flixwagon can do that.
- Kyte.tv can play videos on a Nokia today. Both from your recordings and other people’s. Neither Qik or Flixwagon can do that.
- Kyte.tv is partially funded and supported by Nokia. That might not sound like a big deal, but it is. Nokia is using Kyte’s service internally too, and I’m sure Nokia is giving Kyte better engineering support than it’s giving Qik or Flixwagon.
- Kyte.tv is way ahead of Qik and Kyte in getting real mainstream celebrities like 50 cent on its service, which means its growth is way stronger.
Why do I say that Kyte’s distribution system is stronger? Well, the Kyte.tv player has some significant advantages over the Qik one.
- When embedded it can be set to play the latest video, or a specific video. Qik can only play the specific video you embedded in (I hear they are changing this, but even if they do the second part makes this not as useful). Flixwagon’s gadget lets you show your blog’s readers other videos you’ve done, but not the chat.
- The chat room is always the same. This makes interactivity much quicker on the Kyte.tv video player. Many of my Qik videos don’t have any comments, or only have one or two. This makes those videos seem lame. Compare to Kyte, though, where everyone talks about you all day long, and it is a better place. Plus Kyte’s chat is much nicer and can contain video and audio comments (Qik can only have text comments) and Kyte’s can come from Facebook or other Nokia phones. Major win for Kyte here. I love participating in Kyte’s chat room from my cell phone because I can leave audio comments. I’ve gotten in some interesting conversations done with nothing but audio from other people. Audio is a lot easier to do from your cell phone than text or even video, particularly if you have a crappy cell phone camera or you don’t want to look like a dork out in public holding the cell phone up to take video of you.
I like the Kyte player on Facebook better than anything that Qik or Flixwagon has done yet. Kyte’s can be branded to yourself and you can make your own customized Facebook app for your own Facebook profile. So, TechCrunch can have its own Kyte app, which is much better for branding purposes.
Add all these together and I don’t see how Qik or Flixwagon can beat Kyte anymore in the cell phone video game. What do you think?