Microsoft latest to mimic Snapchat with new Skype Qik ephemeral video messaging app

Microsoft has just joined the ranks of companies looking to capitalize on the success of ephemeral messaging apps like Snapchat. Through its Skype division, the company has launched a new cross-platform app for iOS, Android, and (of course) Windows Phone called Skype Qik. The premise of the application, as can be seen in the video above and screenshots below, is simple: you can record a quick video, and then share it to either one person in your address book or multiple groups of people.

Differentiating itself from some of the other players, the Skype-based solution is video-focused, and Skype is positioning it as a communication tool for in between full-scale Skype video chats. Notably, the whole service is connected to your phone number and existing contacts list, so it doesn’t require signing up with a standard Skype account. If you send a message via Qik to a user without the Qik app, the other person will be sent an SMS text message with instructions for downloading the Qik app to view the video message. This app is based on the technology from startup Qik, which Skype acquired a few years ago.

By default, videos will expire after two weeks, and you can also un-send messages at any time. A cool feature of Skype Qik is the ability to pre-record various 5 second GIFs that you can send as instant replies. So, if you don’t have the ability to send a live video reply, you can just choose one of your pre-record defaults. The app is free today on the aforementioned platforms, and Microsoft says that updates, such as one for blocking iPhone contacts (that feature is available today on Android and Windows Phone), will come often to enhance the feature-set.

You can view some screenshots of the iPhone app in action below:

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Ex-Microsoft exec Ray Ozzie creates messaging iPhone app to ‘revolutionize’ voice calling

Ray Ozzie, who used to be Microsoft’s Chief Technical Officer and Chief Software Architect, has come out with a new app for the iPhone. In an extensive profile, Steven Levy explains the premise behind the app, dubbed Talko. You can read the full overview on Medium. The app has been in development for more than two years.

A new take on phone calls, the app shows if your recipient is currently walking or driving — giving a hint at attentiveness of the speaker before the conversation even begins. It’s a nice use of the Apple M7 and M8 coprocessors. Any voice communication is archived into the growing thread … to organize a conversation like any other modern chat app really. Talko seems best as an app for modern meetings, like a conference call replacement, although Ozzie insists it can be used beyond business.

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Want to install Windows 10 on your Mac? Parallels posts instructions

I keep my Parallels Windows VM around to do stuff like Quickbooks, upgrade Mifi Firmware and occasionally check websites in IE (see our PArallels 10 review here) not to experiment with the latest versions of Redmond’s OS.

But if you want to check out what’s coming down the pike in Windows-land without leaving your trusty Mac, Parallels has an Installation guide for you. First step: if you haven’t already, download Parallels 10 (free Trial)

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Microsoft confirms it’s opening its “first flagship store” a few blocks from Apple’s iconic cube as Steve Jobs backstory revealed

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Microsoft has confirmed its rumored plan to open what it describes as its “first flagship store” on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, a few blocks away from Apple’s glass-cubed flagship store, reports the WSJ.

“As our first flagship store, it will serve as the centerpiece of our Microsoft Stores experience,” said David Porter, corporate vice president for Microsoft retail stores. “This is a goal we’ve had since day one—we were only waiting for the right location. And now we have it.”

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Skype app updated for iOS 8, includes interactive notifications for calls and messages

The Skype app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch has now been updated with support for iOS 8. Unfortunately, this does not include support for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus screen sizes, meaning Skype still renders at a scaled iPhone 5s resolution.

However, the update does add interactive notifications which helps streamline responding to content. Hence, new Skype notifications have buttons attached to the alert which can perform various actions. For voice calls, you can answer or decline. For video calls, you can choose between voice or video responses. For missed calls, you can respond with a message or call the person straight back.

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Former Apple SVP of Retail Ron Johnson talks Apple and Microsoft Stores, offers surprising praise for Surface 3

Ron Johnson at Apple store opening

Former Apple Senior Vice President of Retail (then ousted JCPenney CEO) Ron Johnson made a somewhat rare public-facing appearance on Andreessen Horowitz’s podcast. The discussion comes in at just under half an hour and features the former head of Apple Retail discussing his experience with leading the Apple Store as well as the challenge for up-and-coming startup brands to afford brick-and-mortar retail channels, but more interesting from an Apple perspective is Johnson’s praise for Microsoft’s retail stores and the Surface 3 tablet that the company heavily markets against Apple’s MacBook Air.

“I think the Microsoft stores have succeeded much more than popular opinion. [...] I think it’s really helped, for instance, the Surface 3. It’s a really great product and we all know that. Everyone who has tried a Surface 3 is pretty blown away with the software, the interaction, how it can be a tablet and a computer, its part of the future. Without those stores that Surface 3 wouldn’t be where it is today.”

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Apple starts using China Telecom’s data centers to store iCloud data for China users, rather than US locations

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Update: Apple confirmed the use of China Telecom servers in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.

But the company said Friday in a statement to The Wall Street Journal that all data stored is encrypted, meaning China Telecom won’t have access to its content.

“Apple takes user security and privacy very seriously. We have added China Telecom to our list of data center providers to increase bandwidth and improve performance for our customers in mainland China,” it said.

Apple has begun using Chinese data centers to store iCloud data for local Apple customers, the first time Apple has used mainland China for iCloud account and information storage. On a municipal government website, Fuzhuo City Telecom said that ‘Apple China has completed the iCloud data dump into China Telecom’s cloud services’. The post has since been taken down from the government site, however.

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Future Xbox One update will let you stream live TV to your iPhone or iPad

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Microsoft announced today that a new system update for its Xbox One game console will soon let users stream live TV to their iPhone or iPad. Set to arrive in the next few months, the Xbox One’s SmartGlass companion app will be equipped with the option to watch television via a local network connection without interrupting a gameplay session.

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Microsoft no longer dissing the iPad in Surface ads, now dissing the MacBook Air

Oh dear. Just when we thought Microsoft might have gotten over its misleading Surface tablet ads attacking the iPad (and iPad mini), it has run three new ones, each attacking the MacBook Air (the other two are shown below the fold).

Microsoft’s decision to go on the offensive is perhaps understandable: while Apple can run a MacBook Air ad simply observing that it’s “the notebook people love,” poor sales of the Surface despite high marketing costs have so far resulted in Microsoft losing $1.7B on the device …  Read more

On OS X Leopard? Don’t worry, Skype says Mac version for legacy users returning soon

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Earlier this week, concerns emerged on Skype official message boards about the Skype Mac app no longer functioning on OS X 10.5.8 Leopard (an operating system that launched the same year as the original iPhone), and a Skype representative on the forums apparently confirmed that Skype will no longer be supported on Macs running operating systems below OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

While Skype has not been downloadable nor functional for Leopard users the past few days, a Skype spokesperson tells us this morning that this will soon change: “We have a Skype version for Mac OS X 10.5 users which will soon be available for download.” No additional timing details are available as of yet, but it’s good to know that Leopard users will soon be able to go back to making Skype calls and sending messages as normal.

We’re also told that this new download will be for Leopard users only, so anyone on OS X 10.4 Tiger or below will need to upgrade to Leopard or something newer (like Mavericks) in order to keep on using the Microsoft-owned communications tool.

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Microsoft wants to make a retail splash near Apple’s iconic 5th Ave. cube

 

Microsoft wants to build a new 8,700 sq. ft. retail store on New York’s Fifth Avenue, just a few blocks away from Apple’s cube, the New York Daily News reported today. The two-story building located at 677 Fifth Avenue is currently vacant, but the Redmond-based software giant wants to setup shop near one of its competitors most iconic locations.

Microsoft has been walking in the shadow of Apple’s retail success for years now. In 2009 the company poached George Blakenship from Cupertino’s retail arm to run its own (weirdly similar) stores. Since then, the Microsoft has been taking advantage of open spaces near a few Apple stores to try to get in on the action.

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Chinese government’s war on Apple escalates as it bans govt purchases

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After a Chinese state-run TV channel last month described the iPhone as a “national security concern” (a claim Apple denied), Bloomberg reports that the Chinese government has stepped up its war on Apple by removing the company’s products from its procurement lists.

Ten Apple products — including the iPad, iPad Mini, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro — were omitted from a final government procurement list distributed in July, according to officials who read it and asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The models were on a June version of the list drafted by the National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Finance, the officials said …

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