Interview with Liam McCallum (QVIVO)
QVIVO makes your entire media collection available on many devices via the cloud.
I interviewed Liam McCallum, QVIVO founder to find out more. This interview is the hundred and fourteenth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Liam!
How would you describe QVIVO in under 50 words?
QVIVO is the simplest way to build your personal media cloud. Add media to one device and it shows up on all of them. In sync and ready to stream around the home or on the go from any device.
How did QVIVO come about?
The idea for QVIVO was formed when EA execs Jon and Liam were discussing how to stream personal media libraries through a game console. With a long career in media, Jon couldn’t find a single product for his family to enjoy their vast media collection on any device. And as a tech geek, Liam was dismayed that despite all his connected gadgets the most foolproof way of sharing media around the home or on the go was still a simple USB stick.
In 2010 Jon and Liam left EA to build a product with the pick-up-and-play friendliness of a console game that gave anyone access to their entire family’s media collection on any device, from a large screen TV to a small screen phone.
Where is QVIVO based?
We’re spread all over the world! The QVIVO business and main development studio is based in Hong Kong. Our online development studios are based in Croatia, while our design partners Future Büro are based in Sydney and our PR team in New York.
How did you come up with the name?
The QVIVO name (pronounced “cue vivo”) was inspired by the word “vivo” in many European languages to represent, life, music and entertainment. The word “cue” is used in many daily media interactions but the letter Q also provides a visually pleasing balance to the brand and logo.
Previously you were Director of the Online Technology for Electronic Arts Asia. What skills and experience did this bring to QVIVO?
I was fortunate to have co-ordinated many other similar online platforms at EA, but never on the scale of QVIVO, and with so little resources in comparison. You take for granted the vast support system a well established corporation like EA has at its disposal, from testing centers, to finance teams and human resources. Talking to other startup founders within the industry, it became clear that the skills you bring from the corporate world only take you so far.
What appealed most about being your own boss?
The ability to make quick, smart decisions that are untainted with political bias or bureaucracy. We can brainstorm a feature and have it live the next day.
What technologies have you used to build QVIVO?
There are many separate parts to the QVIVO platform, but at it’s core, all QVIVO apps connect to the QVIVO Online API. Our API is built using a LAMP stack hosted in an auto-scaled cloud environment. Media files are encoded using a 3rd party service and then stored and streamed from Amazon’s S3 and Cloudfront.
Our website is exclusively HTML5, making use of Drag and Drop, File Reader, Local Storage, Video and Audio tags and more.
Each QVIVO application is built using technologies suited to the target platform. On Windows it’s C++ and DirectX with DXVA2, on Mac is C++/Objective-C and OpenGL with VDA, on iOS it’s written using the iOS SDK with wrappers for our common C++ libraries.
What was technically the most challenging part of developing QVIVO?
From an online point of view, scalability is a challenging issue, although it has become much easier to manage with the availability of cloud services from Amazon, Storm, Google and others.
From an app development point of view our media playback technology was by far and away the largest project we embarked on. The hard work has paid off, with the QVIVO app for PC and Mac being able to play back massive high-bitrate 1080p videos that most other apps struggle with.
We have a challenging 20GB MKV file that currently runs at 1% CPU with hardware acceleration turned on and we’re quite pleased to note that even with hardware acceleration turned off it runs with less system resources than most of our competitors using hardware acceleration!
How long did it take to put together QVIVO?
We spent nearly a year building QVIVO as a stand-alone media center to compete with the likes of Apple TV, Roku, and Google TV but then completely shifted focus to building the QVIVO platform as a cloud media service with free apps to access your media on any device – including the aforementioned boxes we first thought were competitors.
It took another year to bring QVIVO to where it is today – a truly unlimited cloud based media service allowing you to sync your media to the QVIVO Cloud to stream to any device including PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad and other devices coming soon.
How have you promoted QVIVO?
We haven’t promoted QVIVO at all so far. We were amazed when we reached our first 100,000 users and it’s been growing strong ever since. We attribute our growth to QVIVO’s social nature. From the very first time you sign into QVIVO.com using your Facebook account, QVIVO allows you to check-in, rate your favourites and see what you’re friends are up to.
Do you have any new features in the pipeline?
Absolutely. We’re focused on developing a QVIVO app for every device with a screen or is connected to one. QVIVO apps for Android handsets and tablets are coming very soon along with native Windows 8 apps. We’ll then focus on TV connected devices such as Roku and Google TV.
Where do you see QVIVO in 5 years time?
On every device in every market of course ;)
Who would you say is your biggest competitor?
Media centers and media devices are no longer considered competitors – they are platforms to develop QVIVO apps for. Cloud storage services are considered competition but we feel QVIVO sits within a very specific niche due to our exclusive focus on media.
Google Music and Amazon Cloud Player lack support for movies and television shows while the entire cloud storage industry is still stuck in a price per GB war. We allow user’s to store media – and a lot of media at that.
Try syncing a 20GB MKV video to any other cloud storage service and you’ll quickly understand why QVIVO’s different. Our plans only come with unlimited storage and start at $1.99 per month. The top Dropbox plan caps out at 500GB and costs $49.99 per month – hardly a replacement for the multi-terabyte media NAS drives QVIVO was designed to replace.
Who do you see as your target audience?
That’s a good question and one we were surprised to discover ourselves during our beta. Coming from the video games industry we imagined our early adopters would be a young male demographic with enthusiast PC hardware. We found it was quite the opposite – being a much more mainstream demographic using relatively low hardware specs. We were also surprised at the huge non-English European and South American user base – which directly influenced our automatic subtitle features.
Unlike traditional video games, apps for movies, TV shows and music appeal to all ages.
How many users do you currently have?
We’re holding off on that information until our next milestone press release.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
Ditching my computer! Steve Jobs’ Post-PC world is still a distant dream but since we went live with our new QVIVO.com web app I can drag and drop a few media URLs directly onto QVIVO.com before I leave work and stream them on my iPad when I get home. It’s a very cool feature which has changed the way I build my media collection.
Can you convince the reader to start using QVIVO in 70 words or less?
All new users start with a free QVIVO Unlimited trial for 14 days so there’s nothing to lose in giving QVIVO a try. Start by dropping a few of your media files (or URLs) onto QVIVO.com, then download the QVIVO app for your iPhone and iPad to start streaming them. At the end of your 14 day trial you won’t want to organize and access your media any other way!
Finished reading? Check out QVIVO!