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How they’re innovating: As YouTube helped nudge video publishing into the mainstream, an online service called Qik may soon do the same with live Internet broadcasting.

Back in January, blogger Steve Garfield happened to be toting his Nokia N95 mobile phone while he was observing the New Hampshire primary. When he bumped into Republican presidential candidate Duncan Hunter on the way to a CNN interview, he clicked a button on the phone and asked Hunter what he was going to say. Hunter gave him an impromptu pre-interview interview about his intention to stay in the race, and the interview was broadcast live to the Web, using Qik.

Qik, a Silicon Valley startup, can turn high-end cell phones into handheld satellite trucks. It enables users to broadcast live video to the Internet, and also to receive questions or comments from the online audience that’s tuned in, via a simple chat window.

When NBC cameraman Jim Long used Qik to webcast a short interview with Bob Geldof while traveling with President Bush, Long wove in a question from one of his viewers. Geldof addressed the questioner by name. “In addition to ‘Meet the Press,’ now we can have ‘Meet the People,'” Long later wrote on his blog.

Thesp Emma Thompson and R.E.M. leader Michael Stipe have also shown up in Qikcasts.

“From a journalism standpoint, you can report from anywhere without a news truck,” says co-founder Bhaskar Roy. “You see something newsworthy, and you can do it right from there.”

Qik started life in co-founder Ramu Sunkara’s garage, but has since grown to 25 employees, divvied between Moscow and Silicon Valley. The company has raised $3 million in funding.

Future plans include expanding the number of mobile phones that can work with Qik, and also enabling phone-to-phone broadcasting.

“We’re very focused on maintaining video performance and speed,” Roy says. “The video has to be live in order to support the chat interactions.”

Take: “Our idea is to enable you to capture and stream video from anywhere,” Roy adds. “You don’t have to lug your laptop around on your ski vacation to share that experience with others.”