Get ready, Skype. The maker of mobile
messaging app Viber has just released desktop versions of its apps for making free calls from Windows and OS X computers, providing a direct competitor to Microsoft-owned Skype. The Cyprus-based startup has also updated its Android and iOS apps, including support for 8 more languages, and has announced that it now has more than 200 million users.
Viber Media CEO Talmon Marco told news media that one difference between the two apps is that Viber built its mobile user base first and then moved to the desktop, while Skype went the other way around. As a result, Viber is more aware of message status on multiple devices.
For example, Viber on one device knows that you've already read your daily messages on another device, while Skype still doesn't. A new message to Skype announces its arrival on multiple devices each time. Viber messages announce on all your devices but, after you answer one, the next message only beeps on that device. Viber also lets a user maintain a call while moving between devices. These features, however, all require the latest version 3.0 on those devices.
Based on Mobile Number
Viber's apps are based on the mobile phone number; if a user tries to install it on a desktop but hasn't done so on a smartphone first, the app will ask that the mobile app be installed first. Viber allows a user to make voice calls, send a text message, or send a video clip to other Viber users.
The Viber desktop app also supports video calling, which has been a key to Skype's rise in popularity. Marco has said the company is developing the ability for live video calls in its mobile apps, and for group video conferences.
The updates for the iOS and Android apps enable video messaging, the ability to search contacts for groups, the ability to roam between Wi-Fi and 3G, and enhanced performance in poor network conditions. The Android app also has a redesigned interface, in the Android Holo style.
No Net Revenue
The hugely popular mobile messaging app WhatsApp also has about 200 million users, although WhatsApp's figure is active users while Viber's is registered users. Viber admits that it has no net revenue yet, but Marco has said it will begin selling premium service add-ons this year.
Microsoft has been busy integrating Skype with its other products, such as a recent preview of integration with Outlook.com for invited users in the U.K. The integrated Skype/Outlook solutions will soon roll out in the U.S. and other markets, as well.
A recent report by research firm Informa found that chat services now account for more messages than the venerable medium of SMS text messages. SMS still has more users, but there are an average of 32 messages each day for chat app users, compared with just five SMS texts for SMS users. The report evaluated six chat apps: WhatsApp, Viber, BlackBerry Messenger, Nimbuzz, Apple's iMessage and KakaoTalk.