Qik or Slow?

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Messenger apps have been all the rage in the last few years. iMessage and WhatsApp and Google Chat and Kik and Skype so on. This has been distinct from real-time or synchronous conversation, which started with the phone, and moved to more modern options, some of which are closely related to messaging, such as FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.

Now, apparently, "Skyperosoft" is looking for its next big growth area, and wants into the multimedia messaging game. Skype already does real-time voice and real-time video in addition to chat - indeed, it was one of the very first in all of these markets; I have been using Skype for over a decade now, since shortly after it was available (first public beta was released in the summer of 2003).

Yet, someone at Skype feels it has the mantle of "last decade's technology", a has-been. It is missing the now-hot market of video messaging. Unlike video conversations, which are real-time and usually person to (multi-)person, video messaging involves recording short clips of video and then including them as part of a conversation.

Technically, the difference between the two is minimal. After all, video messaging and Skype are very similar. Skype even allows one to attach a photo or video - or take a video - using your iPhone or Android (probably Windows Phone as well, although, ironically, Skype features on Windows Phone have lagged behind iOS and Android since the Microsoft acquisition). Just click "Attach", and either "Choose an existing photo" or "take a new photo/video" and it will become part of the chat conversation.

However, Skype felt a need to release a new app, presumably for one or both of two reasons:

  1. Context: The photos and videos primarily exist outside of the Skype app. Once I already take a video outside of Skype, I have no need to go back to Skype to use it; I can send it using iMessage, Google Chat, WhatsApp or any of a dozen other apps. Further, each major platform has its own default app that receives prominence of placement - Chat on Android, iMessage on iOS - none of which is Skype.
  2. Perception: Skype is perceived as older, a more dated app, despite it being the near-universal app. It has identity beyond your particular mobile (WhatsApp's simplicity and Achilles heel); it is completely cross-platform (iMessage's weakness); it does not make its money from reading your conversations (Google's problem); it has all forms of communication in a single app; it has a broad base of users.

Does Skype actually need a new app to combat the above? Probably not. More likely it will confuse and cannibalize its existing app, which may weaken the Skype brand overall.

Microsoft is a solid company with a long track record of making a lot of money by fulfilling basic computing needs for individuals and corporations - Office, Windows, Exchange, Outlook. None of these is exciting, futuristic, innovative, but all have been solid moneymakers for decades. In most cases, when Microsoft has tried something radically new and different, it has fallen flat on its face. Skype under Microsoft is trying to behave in the same way.

Could Skype reinvent itself by having tighter video messaging integration and easier use? Definitely. Will it succeed by breaking that functionality out? Probably not. But at least they are trying.