There are few startups that have fueled as much passion and hatred all at once as Qwiki. The service, which we covered as the winner of Disrupt: San Francisco, aims to change the way in which we consume information. While the proof-of-concept demonstration was strong, showing a visualized, narrated version of the information displayed in Wikipedia, the service still has quite a few nay sayers who think it won’t fly.
My take? I think it will be huge…but not on its own. If I had to place my bets, and I will because that’s the kind of foolish thing I do, I’d bet that Microsoft is already looking at Qwiki. Why? Quite simply it comes down to two things:
With Microsoft adding features to Bing left and right, and of course the focus on Bing as a visual search platform, adding Qwiki just seems to make sense. Though Google still has a strong hold on the overall search market, Bing is making strides. Add to that the fact that Yahoo! search now falls under the Bing umbrella and we have our first major Google competition in years.
So why Qwiki for Bing? First off, just look at it:
Qwiki is right up the Bing path. It has a beautiful display, adds a unique feature to search and gives Microsoft a direction that Google has not yet gone. If you’re asking me, and I’m well aware that nobody is, Bing and Qwiki are tailor-made for one another.
I have, in the past, made the argument that people simply want Google search results. While I still stand by that point, I’m not foolish enough to believe that Bing’s rise is only a temporary thing. You will always have people who either fear or loathe Google and that will in part continue to drive Bing forward. Add Qwiki’s power to Microsoft’s search prowess and you have a perfect storm for a beautiful application that can be added as a feature to Bing on both desktop and mobile.
We’re on the cusp of the release of Windows Phone 7. The thing is, nobody really knows much about it. What we do know, for certain, is that it has to come out of the gate with some really strong features in order to make a splash. Sure, there are some who are ready to jump ship from both iPhone and Android, but not many. Microsoft needs an edge, and a slick handset isn’t edge enough.
Enter Qwiki, and the proof of concept that you saw in the video earlier. Imagine if that were a built-in feature of Phone 7 – that ability to wake up, press play, set your phone on the bathroom counter and then take a shower while you’re being briefed about your day. Or, taking it one step further, imagine turning Qwiki into a mobile, in-your-pocket, virtual assistant. As you drive, you’re able to keep up with what’s going on around you without the need to handle your phone. Mix in a bit of voice prompt and you’re looking at a monster of a feature.
The End Result?
Boil it down and you have a smart business decision for Qwiki. Unfortunately, it would be one of the only smart ones we’ve seen them make yet. Many disagreed with their winning of Disrupt, because the product simply isn’t ready for market yet. If they had walked onto the stage with the phone product as a demonstration, it would have been an immediate game over. That wasn’t the case.
The product is still strong. It’s very strong, in fact. However, there honestly hasn’t been much forethought put into the finer points of what will make the company better. For example, they were offered the chance to partner with UserVoice for customer service and turned it down. We’ve written about UserVoice being implemented with numerous other formats in the past, and Qwiki’s decision doesn’t seem too well-educated.
Moves like this are things that Microsoft can either prevent, or handle in house. So, our advice to Qwiki? If Redmond comes knocking, you’d best answer the door.