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Skype has launched a new messaging app designed to compete with popular apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp. The Microsoft owned company has released Qik, a video app for mobile platforms which stands alone from the Skype app itself. The new app allows short videos of up to 42 seconds long to be sent as instant messages between users and requires only a verification of the user’s phone number to work. Qik is an attempt to bring people closer together in between the longer video chats, but whether it will be effective in doing so depends on what users think of it.
Microsoft launched Skype as a desktop app primarily for use on computers. Since its inception, it has become one of the most popular video call services available, but those long calls between friends and family are relatively few and far between. According to one Skype mobile director, those longer calls happen about once every two or three weeks. Qik is meant to be used in between those longer conversations in order to keep people connected even when they do not have time to talk at length.
Skype already has a mobile app on iPhones, Android and Windows phones, but it is not a quick check-in format like Snapchat or a fast messaging app like WhatsApp, a fact which the new Qik video app is meant to fix. Messages are limited to 42 seconds long, a geeky reference to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in which the meaning of life is 42. Messages also have a shelf-life of two weeks after which they are deleted from all participants’ phones. In order to set up the app, no existing Skype account is needed, only a verification of the user’s phone number which makes using the app almost instantaneous. All in all, the app is meant to capitalize on the popularity of other such apps and to be easy to use in order to attract users.
According to Piero Sierra, the director of mobile, the point of the app is to be “casual and spontaneous, not to last forever.” Unlike longer communications, Qik offers a fast interaction set in the moment and then easily let go of. In the age of ubiquitous mobile phones with limited memory space, that is a good thing, but Qik has a few disadvantages coming in to the competition. First of all, Snapchat already has much the same setup and is an established name in mobile apps. Competing with that kind of juggernaut is an uphill battle. Furthermore, if Qik’s stated goal is to connect people in between Skype calls, then the fact it does not use an existing Skype account and contacts is a serious problem. Not all people who use Skype to communicate with each other also share phone numbers and vice versa. This leaves a serious gap in how useful the app is to existing users of the popular video service. This could be easy to fix, especially if Qik has a good first showing, but the fact that it is the new kid on the block is still a major hurdle to overcome.
Mobile phones and other devices are everywhere and occupy a large chunk of people’s time, so there should be plenty of room for a new app like Qik. Despite the obstacles facing Skype’s new app, if it is better than its competitors it has a good shot at success. Because of its connection to the well-established Skype company, the new messaging app has a leg-up on other contenders entering the race. Overall, the initial outlook for Skype’s new Qik video app is good despite the existing apps that mobile users are currently using.
By Lydia Bradbury