Cisco killed off the much-beloved Flip video camera Tuesday. It was an unglamorous end for a cool device that just few years earlier shocked us all by coming to dominate the video-camera market, utterly routing established players like Sony and Canon
I don’t usually write about Consumer Electronics per se. This particular product category got my attention due to it’s long gestation and overwhelming domination of a category in the market that didn’t exist until it was created. It was the pocket video camera with a built-in flip out USB connector. Like a USB flash drive with a LCD screen, a lens and one big red button, the Flip pared down everything to the absolute essentials, including the absolute immediacy of online video sharing via YouTube and Facebook. Now the revolution has ended, devices have converged and many are telling the story of explaining Why(?) this has happened. In the case of Wired.com’s Robert Capps he claims Flip lost its way after Cisco lost its way doing the Flip 2 revision, trying to get a WiFi connected camera out there for people to record their ‘Lifestream’.
Prior to Robert Capps, different writers for different pubs all spouted the conclusion of Cisco’s own Media Relations folks. Cisco’s Flip camera was the victim of inevitable convergence, pure and simple. Smartphones, in particular Apple’s iPhone kept adding features all once available only on the Flip. Easy recording, easy sharing, larger resolution, bigger LCD screen, and it could play Angry Birds too! I don’t cotton to that conclusion as fed to us by Cisco. It’s too convenient and the convergence myth does not account for the one thing Flip has the iPhone doesn’t have, has never had WILL never have. And that is a simple, industry standard connector. Yes folks convergence is not simply displacing cherry-picked features from one device and incorporating into yours, no. True convergence is picking up all that is BEST about one device and incorporating it, so that fewer and fewer compromises must be made. Which brings me to the issue of the Apple multi-pin connector that has been with us since the first iPod hit the market in 2002.
See the Flip didn’t have a proprietary connector, it just had a big old ugly USB connector. Just as big and ugly as the one your mouse and keyboard use to connect to your desktop computer. The beauty of that choice was Flip could connect to just about any computer manufactured after 1998 (when USB was first hitting the market). The second thing was all the apps for making the Flip play back the videos you shot or to cut them down and edit them were sitting on the Flip, just like hard drive, waiting for you to install them on whichever random computer you wanted to use. Didn’t matter whether or not it had the software installed, it COULD be installed directly from the Flip itself. Isn’t that slick?! You didn’t have to first search for the software online, download and install, it was right there, just double-click and go.
Compare this to the Apple iOS cul-de-sac we all know as iTunes. Your iPhone, iTouch, iPad, iPod all know your computer not through simply by communicating through it’s USB connector. You must first have iTunes installed AND have your proprietary Apple to USB connector to link-up. Then and only then can your device ‘see’ your computer and the Internet. This gated community provided through iTunes allows Apple to see what you are doing, market directly to you and watch as you connect to YouTube to upload your video. All with the intention of one day acting on that information, maintaining full control at each step along the path way from shooting to sharing your video. If this is convergence, I’ll keep my old Flip mino (non-HD) thankyou very much. Freedom (as in choice) is a wonderful thing and compromising that in the name of convergence (mis-recognized as convenience) is no compromise. It is a racket and everyone wants to sell you on the ‘good’ points of the racket. I am not buying it.
- RIP Flip cameras.. You will be missed! (chatootsboots.wordpress.com)
- Alternatives to the dearly departed Flip camera (trafcom.typepad.com)
- Farewell, Flip Camera (www.readwriteweb.com)
- Cisco fades out Flip camera (www.consumerreports.com)
- Why Cisco’s Flip Flopped in the Camera Business (www.wired.com/gadgetlab)