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Microsoft launches Skype Qik: Will the new video messaging app take off?

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Microsoft is betting on the popularity of Skype and its 2011 acquisition of a mobile video streaming startup called Qik to make its brand new video messaging app the preferred choice for mobile users.

Skype Qik is Microsoft's new companion app to its desktop synchronous communications software Skype, which commands a large following of more than 300 million users worldwide. However, while Skype is mostly done for asynchronous communications, Qik closes the gaps its desktop big brother is unable to fill with instant video messages that can be sent and received asynchronously. In other words, Qik is just like sending text messages to other people, only instead of text; users send video messages, nothing else.

"We're responding to the big trends in the industry," says Skype director of mobile Piero Sierra in an interview with The Verge.

One major trend Sierra is talking about is the overwhelming shift from desktop to mobile, and numerous technology companies have capitalized on the trend by launching their own mobile messaging apps, such as Google's Hangouts, Facebook's Messenger and Apple's Facetime, well ahead of Microsoft's Skype Qik. Microsoft is also jumping on the ephemerality bandwagon, a Snapchat-popularized trend and other companies, notably Facebook, seem to be keen on catching up with.

The clean, minimalist interface of Qik makes it quick and easy for users to send video messages to one person or a group of friends simply by tapping the prominent pink button on the app's home screen. They can then choose from any of their contacts' phone numbers and can also receive video messages from other people who have their numbers. If a person who receives a message doesn't have Qik installed, the app sends text messages that instructs them how to download the app, a feature that Microsoft thought up to encourage adoption. Each video lasts two weeks. After that time, all videos are deleted from chat, whether they've been seen or not, and users can leave video conversations when they wish.

"It's meant to be casual and spontaneous, not to last forever," Sierra says.

Also obvious here is the tribute to Vine's, short, seven-second videos, although Qik's 42-second video messages are seven times longer. Why 42? Because according to Douglas Adams' intelligent computer Deep Thought, 42 is the answer to life's greatest question.

And for users who can't or don't want to immediately record their video replies, they can send Qik Fliks instead. These are short, five-second stock videos that can be sent in place of the video messages. Microsoft starts with 12 Qik Fliks but says will eventually expand to accommodate more in the future.

Skype Qik is now available for free for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. It uses users' phone numbers though, so it is only available on mobile phones. However, Microsoft is working on linking Skype and Skype Qik in the future, which could eventually pave the way for use on tablets and other devices.

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