Meerkat v Periscope: Who will win the live-streaming video battle?

A live-stream demonstration of Meerkat
A live-stream demonstration of the Meerkat app

For the last couple of weeks the hot new thing in tech - or at least the most talked about at the SXSW music and tech festival in Texas - has been a live-streaming video service called Meerkat.

Now Twitter, which just days ago acted to prevent Meerkat tapping into its own users quite so easily, has launched a rival service called Periscope. Battle has been joined and there's unlikely to be more than one winner.

Both apps provide an extremely simple way of going live from your mobile phone with just a couple of taps - and letting the world see what you see. This is not particularly new - services like Qik, Bambuser and Livestream have allowed you to go live from your phone for some years. But Meerkat and Periscope have come along just as many mobile users have easier and cheaper access to the necessary data connection and they also make it far easier to connect with an audience. I've tried both, and here is what I've found.

To start a Meerkast (as they're known) you just fill in a subject box describing what you are about to show and press "stream". Then those who follow you on the app get an alert telling them that you are live, and they can choose to watch and send you messages which pop up at the bottom of the screen. I've used the app to stream a speaker at a conference, a Raspberry Pi contest at the Science Museum and even a tech event hosted by the Duke of York inside a royal palace.

You quickly see how many people are watching - I think my highest audience has been 47, and apparently a Meerkast with the White House press secretary attracted several hundred viewers. Not exactly the world coming together, but then this is a very new app. Once you stop streaming, anyone who arrives too late has no way of retrieving your Meerkast. As I've often found, it can be frustrating to get a message saying someone is streaming, only to find it's over by the time you tune in.

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Glittering spires and silicon roundabouts

Gate of St John's College, Cambridge

Good news in the last 24 hours about two UK tech firms. Both are clever software businesses based in London but in each case the founders studied in Cambridge. A sign perhaps, that Cambridge knowhow and London's marketing skills are combining to good effect.

The first is Improbable, a business founded by a group of Cambridge computer scientists which creates virtual environments for use in everything from gaming to high finance. "We are building the operating system for simulated worlds," is how its chief executive Herman Narula describes its mission to me.

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Registered to vote? Computer says no…

Casting a vote

This May, technology could have quite an impact on the way the general election is conducted.

No, we are not about to try online voting - that's a long way off - but millions of people will have registered to vote by going online. The government's revamped website gov.uk now allows you to register. But could mixed messages and a lack of joined up thinking between central and local government cause confusion?

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Will British consumers follow Microsoft's Band?

In recent days, I've been looking like a walking - or sometimes jogging - advert for wearable technology.

On one wrist I've been wearing a smart watch, the Moto 360, on the other a fitness tracker, the Nike FuelBand - plus a device which supposedly combines the best of both in one package.

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The Micro Bit - can it make us digital?

BBC director general Tony Hall launches Make It Digital

The BBC plans to give a million children a tiny computer this September.

It is called the Micro Bit and it was unveiled at this morning's launch of Make It Digital, an ambitious project aimed at getting us all to be a bit more creative with digital technology.

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Five questions about Apple Watch

Tim Cook unveils the Apple Watch in September 2014

Apple events are always preceded by a huge amount of feverish speculation as what cynics call the reality distortion field is deployed.

But today's show at the Yerba Buena Arts Centre in San Francisco might well break the internet, such is the excitement and anticipation. And this for the second event about a device first unveiled last September. So what do we need to know this time? Here are five questions I will be hoping to see answered...

How much?

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Zuckerberg - the unasked questions

Mark Zuckerberg

He's probably the single most influential figure in the world of mobile communications, so Mark Zuckerberg's appearance at the Mobile World Congress was always bound to be a hot ticket.

But the sixty-minute session in which Facebook's founder was first interviewed by a journalist from Wired, then joined on stage by three mobile operators, was one big yawn, a missed opportunity.

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Will Sony march away from mobile?

It is one of the best known names in consumer electronics, the firm which brought us the Trinitron TV, the Walkman and the PlayStation - and of course it has a huge presence at the Mobile World Congress trade fair.

But it's now worth asking the question: Why is Sony still making mobile phones? Because it really isn't working.

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Samsung tries to get an edge on its rivals

The world's mobile phone makers, gathered in Barcelona this week, have a guilty secret - they know full well that all of their latest models look roughly similar and do much the same as those of their rivals. And for the world's biggest phone maker Samsung that's a problem - it needs to look different.

Faced with the mighty brand of Apple's iPhone at the top end of the market and Chinese models that are now offering a smartphone experience at a bargain price, the South Korean giant has had a tricky year. At the end of 2013, it had a big lead over Apple in the smartphone market, but by the final quarter of 2014 the two firms were neck-and-neck, and three Chinese firms, Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi, together made up a powerful third force.

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Kickstarter - now just a store?

Kickstarter website - woman playing the piano
Kickstarter has insisted in the past that it is not simply a shop window

This afternoon I've been staring, mesmerised, at a Kickstarter page.

It is a campaign to raise $500,000 to fund a new smart watch - and just half an hour after it was launched it had raced through its target. The last time I looked, it was racing towards $3m in 90 minutes.

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