Klip: iPhone Video Sharing Refined to A High Art

11/11/11Follow @wroush

Put high-quality cameras into devices with broadband wireless connections. Add powerful smartphone operating systems like iOS or Android and app-store ecosystems like iTunes and the Android Market. Mix in some sloth and disinterest on the part of established photo-sharing destinations like Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter.

Under these conditions, it was probably inevitable that entrepreneurs would create a slew of new mobile photo-sharing startups like Instagram, Picplz, and Path. Instagram, with somewhere north of 12 million users, seems to be the winner in this space so far; it’s getting smartphone owners used to the concept of snapping photos on the go, applying optional faux-vintage filters, and sharing instantly on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, Posterous, or Foursquare.

Now comes the next logical step: video sharing apps and startups. All of the latest smartphones shoot high-definition video as well as photos, but so far, Instagram doesn’t let users share video clips—at least, not yet. That’s created room for even newer iPhone apps like Socialcam from Justin.TV, Vlix from Spotmixer, and Klip, from the Palo Alto, CA, startup of the same name.

All of these free apps let users record and edit short video clips and share them with friends. None have a gigantic following yet, and I don’t know which one will dominate. But if the contest were being decided on sheer elegance, the winner right now would be Klip.

I sat down recently with Alain Rossmann, the veteran computing and mobile entrepreneur behind Klip, and got a tour of the app and a glimpse of the thinking behind its design. (See the video below.) If there’s a single theme that differentiates Klip from the other video sharing apps, it’s Rossmann’s obsession with refining the user-experience details.

That’s a skill he says he began to develop at Apple, where he was on the marketing team for the original Macintosh in the early 1980s. One thing Rossmann says he learned from Steve Jobs—whose “genius was there even then, but also the difficult side”—was that “the last 10 percent of refinement gets you 90 percent of the market share.” Which explains why Klip includes seemingly obscure but aesthetically important features like face detection—to make sure that the profile photo that shows up alongside your uploaded videos is cropped properly. “When you see your friends, you want to see their face,” Rossmann insists. “To get that on a phone with retina-display resolution, you have to do face detection.”

Here’s a short video of Rossmann demonstrating Klip. Story continues after video.

Rossmann has five startups under his belt prior to Klip. Three went public, and two were acquired. That’s “more than any one man, or his wife, should have to bear,” he jokes. But he can’t seem to resist.

After Apple, Rossmann co-founded Radius with a group of other Macintosh team alums; the company made graphics cards and external displays for the Mac. Next came C-Cube Microsystems, which built the first chips for handling MPEG video compression. EO, which made a pen-based wireless communications tablet (like the iPad, but about 16 years ahead of its time) was next. Then there was Unwired Planet, which helped give birth to the Wireless Access Protocol for Web browsing on feature phones and ultimately morphed into OpenWave (NASDAQ: OPWV). And finally there was … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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