Skype buys Qik mobile video streaming service

The company says one in four calling minutes worldwide are now made over Skype

Skype has acquired Qik, the mobile-to-mobile video streaming service, as part of an effort to expand its voice and video calling service beyond PCs and to more devices.

Skype also announced at the Consumer Electronics Show Thursday that it will soon be available on Sony Bravia TVs, as well as TVs from Vizio. That's in addition to the Samsung and Panasonic TVs that already ship with Skype software to let users make video calls in the living room.

Skype's software will also ship with some Panasonic Blu-ray players, so users with some other makes of television can also make Skype calls, the company said. Users need to have a Web camera attached to the top of the television to make the TV calls.

Skype also said its group video calling service has come out of beta, and that is will cost US$8.99 per month to conference over Skype with up to 10 users. Only one of those 10 has to pay for the monthly service.

Tony Bates, Skype's recently appointed CEO, made the announcements during a press conference at the show.

Bates declined to say how much Skype is paying for Qik, although a published report on Business Insider, citing unnamed sources, put the figure at $100 million.

Bates also didn't say how Skype plans to integrate Qik into its service, including whether it will retain the Qik brand or change other features.

Skype already lets users make video calls from mobile to mobile, but Qik has some more advanced features like the ability to store video streams in the cloud for later viewing.

A quarter of all international calling minutes are made over Skype, Bates said, citing new figures from Telegeography. That figure is up from 12 per cent last year and eight per cent the year before.

That comes out to 190 billion minutes per year, he said. About 40 per cent of that is currently video calls.

Skype's popularity makes outages more noticeable, however, and Bates had to apologize for a day-long outage that affected the service just before Christmas. "We're deeply sorry," he said.

Skype is also releasing a more advanced software development kit to let companies add Skype calling features to more products. He gave the example of the OnStar roadside recovery service, which currently supports only audio calls.

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James Niccolai

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