Did you know that even the Pope is now live video streaming from its mobile phone? Can't believe it? In this video conversation with Bhaskar Roy, co-founder of QIK, one of the most popular live mobile video streaming services, Robin Good uncovers the Vatican story as well as other unheard of uses and applications of powerful and yet inexpensive personal video-casting technology.
Bhaskar Roy - Photo credit: Robin Good
QIK is one among several powerful new tools which allows anyone with a compatible mobile phone and an adequate data-transmission plan to broadcast live directly from your mobile phone, creating the opportunity for tens of thousands of users to experience all kind of events without needing to be there.
If you enjoy using Twitter for your daily micro-blogging activities, you're going to love Qik. It's like twittering enhanced with videos. And if the social network fever really got you, Qik is developing a new feature which will enable you to stream all of your live videos directly to your Facebook Profile. Sounds cool, isn't it?
Here the video interview (the audio quality isn't that great this time, and we appreciate your patience on this), alongside a full English text transcription:
Duration: 13' 33"
N.B.: Audio quality is rather bad. Robin's voice is way too loud and distorted and Bhaskar is too soft. Apologies and please peruse the full text transcription here below.
Full English Text Transcription
Robin Good: Hi guys! Here's Robin Good from Rome, Italy, and I'm here with Bhaskar Roy, connecting from California!
He's one of the co-founders of Qik, one of my favourite companies, giving you the possibility from you standard Nokia phone, iPhone, whatever good mobile phone you've got, to stream live your video from anywhere you are.
Ciao Bhaskar! How are you doing today?
Bhaskar Roy: I'm doing very good Robin, I'm glad to be here and talking to you.
A Large User Base
Robin Good: Good, in fact for me as well, because we users of Qik and the people who are curious and want to know more about it, want to find directly from you what are the latest news.
How's it going with Qik? How many people are using it to this moment... how many active users have you got?
Bhaskar Roy: Very good question Robin. We are seeing a lot of users, tens of thousands of users across around hundred countries, now you think about it.
The great finding is these people around the world have started appreciating this concept and using it, and to the point we see close to 35 per cent of our users, I would say active every week. Every week 35 per cent of our user base actually using the product and getting value from it, so we're very excited.
Robin Good: What about unique applications, stuff that you wouldn't have thought about, that people are using Qik for? Have you noticed specific either entertaining, spontaneous, or even business-like applications that are springing up spontaneously by the use of this new technology?
Bhaskar Roy: Absolutely. We're surprised pretty much everyday of how people use it.
I'll give you some examples.
One is: we were surprised that Pope, the Vatican, started using Qik. They were using it when they were going out, and basically that was something called World Get Together 2008 or something that like in Australia, on World Youth Day 2008.
The Pope traveled to Australia and he was addressing everyone there and the entire travel diaries were captured by the media around Pope, and the priests around Pope using Qik. That was like we had never ever, when we started, imagined that the Vatican would start using Qik. That was a pleasant surprise.
We also are finding that in terms of businesses media companies are starting to use Qik. People are using this mainly to broadcast live news, or capture live news. We're finding fields service type application, and half recently what we found is there is one particular person we came to know who's using it for telemedicine type purposes.
We're finding very interesting business-use cases, but the things that surprises us all the time is when people themselves come up with and consumers come up with a new way of using it.
I'll give you another example about a person: he was a dad, he was expecting a kid, but the kid was not due before two months or so and he was traveling, and no-one can say what happens. The kid decided to come early and he was able to experience that entire birth of his kid, and be there using Qik.
This was of course a private video, and this video was kept private. We don't even have access to it, but the way we came to know about that, he sent us an e-mail saying: "I wouldn't have ever been able to participate in this without a technology like Qik". Those kind of things gets us and energizes us to do more and more of this.
QIK New Features
Robin Good: Fantastic reports, excellent stories. Thank you Bhaskar for sharing these. How about new features?
Recently my phone was complaining about upgrading, and we users sometimes now get more scared than excited when there's a new upgrade because like on the iPhones, upgrades from Apple kind of lock you into more business protections or DRM schemes. Anyhow a friend of mine I guess misunderstood, and also I was leading to misunderstanding myself, because, as soon as I upgraded, my phone started to say: "Do you want to access this billable event?"
Is Qik going to be a costly event for streaming for me in the future? What's happening?
Bhaskar Roy: No, that is one of the requirements as we're going through the certification process with these manufacturers, and Symbian certifications. Those are the requirements that we have.
It's not that we are charging for it, but letting the end user know that it's a billable event, because that is your paying for the data associated with it. Once we use the data plans of users, we actually have to inform our users about it. We are taking those steps, which enables us to inform the users that these are some of the things that are happening in the application.
Don't be surprised if there's a data charge cost, and these are some of the requirements which are for the Symbian certifications and we're going through those processes right now to build a complete certified applications and what you saw.
Robin Good: Oh, that's good to know because, again, we users are as well skeptical, but many times very ignorant as well. The message gets to be a little ambiguous in our eyes as we would think naturally it's not the charge of the data transfer, which we expect by default to be charged for, but the use of Qik that comes into discussion. Maybe in the future, Nokia, Qik and all the companies can work to make these clearer and not misunderstood by the user, because it's going to be a disadvantage to all the participants.
Bhaskar Roy: Right, absolutely.
QIK Meets Facebook
Robin Good: You've got some real new features coming up for us users. I know because I've been experimenting with one that is absolutely cool, but you want to have the honor of telling us about it?
Bhaskar Roy: Sure, sure. I think you discovered our Facebook application, Robin. We are, as you can see, earlier we used to have a Facebook app, but what we have done is enhance that application, so that when you're streaming live, you're streaming live via Facebook Profile, people can actually chat and comment from that Facebook profile, then build out your entered comments.
You also have the ability to just not look at the live video, but also at the videos you've done in the past. You can look at those videos via Facebook. And whenever you're streaming live, you also have the ability for this to go into the news feed which maybe you've discovered as a part of this.
We had a Facebook app, quite some time back. We've enhanced it, and we're working on it. It's still in testing mode. It's great you discovered that and started playing with it.
Great, let us know if you have any feedback, we're always looking for that!
What Makes QIK Better Than Other Mobile Live Video Streaming Solutions?
Robin Good: Coolio! Yeah, I wasn't sure if I discovered something, I was onto something new, or I was just waking up too late, and I'm glad that it is something new. I invite everyone to go and try it out though this is still in super-alpha-beta testing mode. It's still good to try it out and provide feedback to Bhaskar and his team.
What did I want to ask you that was in my notes: many people ask me: "Robin, why are you using Qik, there are a number now, at least five, six, seven, live video streaming applications that I can use from my mobile phone and all seem pretty good". Some others have maybe some special features, you can use them from the PC, some others have a connection to the GPS, but now I see even Qik has it.
If you were to market yourself against the competitors, I'm not even asking you to mention them, what would you think are the key features that make you stand out from the user standpoint, and that you would underline to a new user?
Bhaskar Roy: It's a very good observation Robin.
The key thing is looking at what our company is all about. All of us have been in real-time communication space, especially the founders for a long time, for a good nine to ten years prior to starting Qik.
The key things that we focus on is: how can we enable people to stream hi-quality video?
You are to a point where you can actually stream full 640x480 quality video from your Nokia N95. We are focused on looking at how we can deliver very high quality video, whatever is possible, across all type of network conditions.
Lot of people don't even realize it, but when pick a cell pocket, or you are not online on a cell network, you can still be streaming and what Qik will do, is whenever it discovers the network, it will automatically push it out, so you don't really have to worry about it. You can be in complete disconnected mode, streaming away, it will detect when the network comes in and push it out.
When you are streaming and your battery dies, the next stand when you start up it will discover saying: "Hey, there are some stream which cut left over, which are not taken to the server". It will automatically start pushing those things out.
We have tried to make it, so that from a user standpoint the technology is completely invisible, but there's powerful technology behind it. When you press that one button stream, it takes care of all the various conditions that could possibly happen, and makes sure that your stream is still going live, it's still going as high quality as possible.
QIK Business Model
Robin Good: Great news, indeed! Fantastic, I've become so accustomed to this stuff that I even forget telling my friends, but if you guys google "qik robin good" you can hear my video story of, I don't know six months ago or more, I was just amazed at this thing. I would go in the underground station, deep, under miles of concrete, and the thing would keep going. And when I go up again out of the next station Qik broadcasts everything out. It's fantastic.
Outside of me being not part of the company, I really think that from this point of view, it's truly fantastic.
To close fast with something that also some of my readers are interested into. What are you looking at in your future, the business model with which to survive. Is any surprise coming to us?
Bhaskar Roy: No, I would say it won't be a surprise at all. We are very very open and we always take our users' feedback whenever we do something. It's just the nature of the way we are. You would see us very active on our blogs, talking to users and figuring out what to do next. We will be doing the same thing as we figure out what are the next steps of monetizing Qik.
One of the key things that we are looking at is looking to see how we can provide premium services around this. The basics we're looking at we'll always be free, but to look at how can we enable premium services, and by that we're getting some requests from our users saying that if you add certain capabilities... if you look at providing some type of service level agreement that we'll be willing to pay some type of subscription fee for it.
These are some of the things that we will be exploring. But those are still I would say in sometime 2009, so that it the time-frame when we can start working with our users and try to figure those things out as to what we can do.
Robin Good: In fact it'd be nice that we could use the billable option, to create channels that allow the live streaming of subscription services and premium value content.
That is something that even small publishers like me would be very interested into. I look forward to that, I thank you, for your time and I invite everyone to go out and try Qik, Q-I-K.com.
Supported Mobile Phones
Robin Good: What are the range of models now supported Bhasker?
Bhaskar Roy: We now support close to some 70 odd models. Nokia, a lot of Nokia phones, a lot of Windows Mobile phones, we support iPhone, we also have a lot of support for the lower Nokia phones, HTC phones, Sony-Ericsson phones, Samsung phones.
We do support a huge variety of phones. If you go to Qik.com, at the footer of the page, there's a link to all supported phones, click on it, and you'll be able to see all the various phones that we support.
Robin Good: Fantastic, thanks a lot for your information. I can only really thank you so much for sharing those info, and keep it up, keep us in the loop.
We're really happy customers for now, keep it doing like this Bhaskar!
Bhaskar Roy: Thank you Robin, Thank you.
Robin Good: Have a great day, Ciao!
Originally shot and recorded by Robin Good for MasterNewMedia and first published on October 28th 2008 as "Mobile Video Streaming With Qik: A Video Interview With Founder Bhaskar Roy"