Author(s): Peter Bryer
Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled Skype Qik, a Snapchat-like, mobile-centric service for sharing short videos with friends. The app is available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone devices. Like WhatsApp, Skype Qik requires the user to register with the device's phone number rather than using a Skype username or other Microsoft identifier.
The service is based on the concept and technology of the original Qik, which Skype purchased in 2011 for $100 million. Qik allowed users to share live video streams using its Smart Streaming method of optimizing video over mobile networks. Skype Qik will mirror Snapchat as an ephemeral service, with all traces of shared videos deleted after two weeks.
The announcement of Skype Qik initially appeared to indicate that Microsoft was evolving Skype into a more social service. Skype users tend to log on and off, active in infrequent bursts of pre-arranged conversations. Microsoft claims that there are more than 300 million Skype users worldwide, tending to be younger people who regularly use Facebook and Twitter. Microsoft understands the high level of social engagement of Skype's users, but has made little attempt to capture this potential. It comes as a surprise that Microsoft isn't looking to Skype Qik to utilise Skype's audience.
Skype could be considered a top-three global social network by some metrics. It has 100 million more users than LinkedIn, and brags of billions of hours of activity and usage across the globe. However, Skype Qik has been introduced as a completely unrelated service to anything else from Microsoft. Its use of the device's phone number (rather than allowing login with existing accounts) will preclude the service from cutting across handset forms, ignoring the importance of multi-device ownership, and Skype Qik can't be used to share content with desktop, tablet or Xbox users in this initial iteration.
This is particularly perplexing given the recent announcement of Windows 10 and Microsoft's recognition of OS convergence, and could indicate a lack of true cross-company collaboration in all Microsoft units, or slow integration of acquisitions. Microsoft has a clear desire to ride the current social wave, but is preparing to compete against Facebook and FaceTime with an oddly restricting approach.
Microsoft has the opportunity to establish itself as a major player in social media, but the company must act quickly to bring its services together.