Several SMUGgles anticipated my devastation at today’s news that Cisco is shutting down its Flip camera business.
Or at least they thought I would be interested, since I have written so frequently about the Flip, starting with this review in 2008. I had posts on:
- Using a Flip as an alternate audio source for podcasting and to get still images
- A peek at the Mino
- Video of my son-in-law channeling Ariel from The Little Mermaid and demonstrating the rapid temperature drop when I backed the car out of the garage on a January morning
- A Super Bowl Ad I produced using the Flip
- A Chancellor’s Choice award presented to the Flip
- 8 Steps to Sustainable Blogging
- Meredith Gould’s status as a great humanitarian for returning my Flip after I left it on the podium at a presentation in Philadelphia, and
- A comparison between the Flip HD and the Kodak Zi8
You get the idea. It’s no secret I love the straightforward simplicity of the Flip. Others have cited the external microphone jack on the Kodak. I don’t hate the Kodak, but the flippy thing feels flimsier, and you need to buy a flash memory card. The Flip just comes ready to go.
Or at least it used to.
So what do I think?
First, this is a classic case of the disruptive technology being disrupted by others, in line with what Clayton Christensen writes about in his Innovator’s Dilemma series. The Flip “wasn’t good enough” for the best customers of Sony, and so Sony ceded the low end of the market. Eventually Pure Digital (which Cisco bought for over $500 million) kept improving the Flip until it became, for most people, more than good enough, including HD video. And certainly a better value than the old tape-based cameras.
Now the Flip has all sorts of competitors to provide video on the go, including various smart phones for which the “not good enough” stage is quickly passing.
I’m not going to get into the business decisions of Cisco, and whether it could have spun the business off or sold it to someone. I’ve got to believe that if Cisco management thought they could gain something by selling the business instead of laying off 500 employees, they would have done it.
One upshot is the Flip is going to become the generic term for this type of camera. Instead of a Flip camera that’s a brand, we will refer to flip cameras.
What will I do?
First, I might buy another Flip Ultra HD while I still can. It’s not like they wear out or will magically quit working because production is shutting down. Batteries are rechargeable, and you can also use standard AAs.
I also might consider upgrading my iPhone. I’m on a 3G. I didn’t get the 3GS and haven’t taken the plunge for the iPhone 4. My phone doesn’t take video, and since my AT&T contract expired almost a year ago, I’m free to explore options. I might just wait for the next version, since they seem to come out in the Summer.
But mainly, I’ll probably get a little nostalgic. The Flip made a huge difference for me. I’ve recorded a lot of my kids’ basketball games, first in SD and then HD. I’ve had a great experience with the Flip, and it has made turnaround on video shoots almost instantaneous. It seems odd that the most popular video camera in the world isn’t going to be made anymore.
One thing I know for certain, though, is that the demise of the Flip isn’t going to make flip video any less prevalent. Low-cost consumer-grade video is going to continue improving in quality and getting cheaper. It will just be done under a different brand name. And flip will become the generic term.
What’s your favorite Flip story?