Did Smartphones Kill The Video Star?
Cisco announced recently that it’s pulling back its product lines to focus on its core competencies, especially in the consumer space. The first casualty of Cisco’s culling strategy has been a product that was always a slightly odd fit with the rest of Cisco’s lines, namely the Flip video camera.
The Flip, in case you’re not familiar with it, is, or should I say was, a pocket sized video camera with one particular redeeming function. It had one big red shiny button on it, used for recording and stopping recording. Yeah, that does sound rather simple, but then simple is the entire point.
The Flip did have other buttons, depending in the model, and a flip-out USB plug that meant you could never lose the cable. That’s where it got it’s name from, although plenty of Flip users tended to carry around a USB extension cable, as the flip-out USB connector is pretty short, and on some PCs that can make it a pain to plug in.
Since the decision to cull the Flip, there’s been plenty of online speculation about what “killed” the Flip brand. Frankly, Cisco killed the Flip brand by deciding that it was so, and presumably there’s some tasty patents (or similar intellectual property) behind the brand, otherwise the smart thing to do would have been to try to sell the Flip business to other interested parties. There’s certainly a number of Flip competitors in the marketplace, some of which stand out for waterproofing features, dual screens (so you can film yourself while watching yourself) and even 3D compatibility. Somebody, somewhere would have offered Cisco money for it, but by declaring the brand dead, any such deal dies along with it.
The other line of contention here is that consumers don’t actually want dedicated pocket camcorders any more. Why would that be so? Simply put, because many smartphones offer video recording facilities. In the higher end smartphones, they’re even capable of high definition recording. I can see the appeal there, although I’m yet to find a smartphone that I’m truly happy to shoot video with. This has less to do with the quality of the lenses — by the time you get down to a lens that small there’s all sorts of compromises you’re already making — and more to do with the fact that smartphone batteries generally struggle to get through an entire day’s work as it is. Adding video recording to its list of tasks is a quick way to a flat battery in my experience.
It also makes me wonder how (and whether) people shoot video with small devices. Anyone with a full camcorder in a public place is quite obvious, but I don’t see too many folks doing that. Plenty of people take snapshots with pocket cameras and indeed with mobile phones, but how many people actually shoot video of where they are instead?