Sometimes products come along that just simply hit the mark. Whether it's based on filling a business or consumer need, or for its ease of use, innovative simplicity or aesthetic quality, these products have helped shape that industry. They've also spawned competition within its market which has given us more choices and better products. But that particular product, while it may not be the first, will be remembered as the one that defines that market space. Such can be said for Flip Video camera, which met its unfortunate demise earlier this week.

Just as Cisco surprised everyone with its $590 million purchase of Pure Digital, the makers of the world's most popular pocket video camera, just 2 years ago – the networking giant stunned the masses with its announcement that it would be shutting down the Flip Video business unit and kill the popular consumer device. 500 Cisco employees from the Flip Video business unit unfortunately would also be trimmed from their ranks as part of the company's consumer business restructuring plan.

Why Kill the Flip?

Cisco CEO John Chambers had sent out a memo the week before admitting to employees that they had disappointed investors and confused employees and that the company needed to get back on track and refocus on its core offerings. The company had seen several quarters of disappointing results and its consumer market strategy had faltered with its recent TelePresence product Umi, which it will stop selling through resellers and will be folded into the company's Business TelePresence product line. But while the Flip Video cameras were still selling like hot cakes and represented 35 percent of the camcorder market , Cisco's CEO said that they would need to retrench and make some "bold changes."

He followed up this week by saying:

"We are making key, targeted moves as we align operations in support of our network-centric platform strategy. As we move forward, our consumer efforts will focus on how we help our enterprise and service provider customers optimize and expand their offerings for consumers, and help ensure the network's ability to deliver on those offerings."

Reaction to the News

The announcement was met with mixed feelings throughout the Internet, with many eulogizing the consumer device that revolutionized the camcorder industry and became an easy to use tool for online video publishing. Many have pointed out that the rise of HD recording capabilities in the iPhone 4 and the Droid have eroded then Flip's market share and triggered its decline. One the big drawbacks of the Flip has been the inability to capture good quality sound. The lack of a microphone input jack really limited it to being more of a "one trick pony" consumer device unlike its competitor the Kodak's Zi8 which includes a mic input jack, 1080p recording and an HDMI connection.

Are You Flipped Out About the Flip? flip video pam anderson 200x160 Video producers around the world rejoiced its demise because it meant that PR professionals and marketers could go back to their old jobs and leave the video production to professionals. The Ragan Communications blog asked, Did Flip flop? Many communicators say popular digital cam's time had come and noted that some will miss a great video tool, but most agree it wasn't irreplaceable in the changing world of internal communications.

New York Times columnist David Pogue expressed his dismay at the demise of the Flip – a product he loved for its simplicity and strength – calling it a tragic death of the Flip. According to Pogue, smart phones didn't kill off the Flip because of the 1 billion cellphones sold annually, only 1 million are iPhones and most cellphones don't even record video, let alone HD video. Pouge noted that Chambers' quote about the company refocusing on its core business to make "key, targeted moves as we align operations in support of our network-centric platform strategy" really meant, "We had no clue what we were doing.”

Both Om Malik and Kara Swisher spoke with Jonathan Kaplan, CEO & Founder of San Francisco-based Pure Digital, who had recently departed from Cisco, about why Cisco may have killed the Flip. While Kaplan declined to comment he did say people still want single purpose devices. Kaplan told Swisher that, "Flip changed the world. The brand will always live….So I don't think of it as such a bad day.”

ALSO ►  Why YouTube Will Be Better Off Without Google Plus

Did you say, FlipLive?

Pouge said that the tragic death of the Flip was compounded by what he learned from a Flip product manager a few days prior to the untimely announcement, that the Flip was planning to release FlipLive, a new feature that would enable the Flip to do live video broadcasting to the Internet from a Wi-Fi hot spot.

Think how amazing that would be. The world could tune in, live, to join you in watching concerts. Shuttle launches. The plane in the Hudson. College lectures. Apple keynote speeches. Or your relatives could join you for smaller, more personal events: weddings, birthday parties, graduations, first steps. And the FlipLive was supposed to ship on April 13. The day after Cisco killed the Flip.

This was a feature I had long thought would make the Flip a unique device with live streaming capabilities of a smart phone with applications like Qik, Ustream, Livestream and others. But now, it appears we won't seeing that feature and will have to rely on our mobile devices for that.

RIP Flip

The Flip had a number of competitors and in his article, Death of the Flip camcorder doesn't mean camcorders are obsolete, Paul Riismandel (the medigeek) wrote:

Prior to the introduction of the Flip there had been a few attempts by electronics makers like Panasonic and Samsung to introduce small flash-memory camcorders which failed to take hold in the market. Sanyo was actually an early success story with its Xacti line of standard def and HD camcorder, though never a runaway success like Flip. While Flip caught its competitors by surprise, that first-mover advantage didn't last very long. Within a year Flip had created its own market segment, challenging Sony and Kodak, in particular, to jump into the palm-sized camcorder market with both feet. Sanyo answered the challenge by reducing the price on its Xacti line while retaining higher-end features like an optical zoom lens and flip-out screen. Even though Flip remained on top, these other manufacturers soon were nipping at its heels.

Like Pouge, Riismandel doesn't think the rise of HD recording in smart phones had a huge effect on the Flip's market share and that it was rather a victim of its own success. It was caught in a bad marriage with a technology giant that didn't have success in the consumer market and chose to close down the business rather than sell it. Some have said that Cisco really may have wanted its intellectual property rather than extending its success in the market.

Personally, I hope we see the Flip resurrected in some form or another. The fact is, it's a simple device to use with only a few steps (1) Turn on (2) Press red button to record, press again to stop (3) Insert USB into computer to download, edit and upload. As evidence below of my first Flip video which was shot by my daughter who was 10 years old at the time.

The Flip's biggest drawback was its lack of a microphone input jack, and as a video professional I criticize its shortcomings in the audio department, but it really did help revolutionize the pocket camcorder industry with its simplicity and size. I have three Flips, but stopped using them when I got a Kodak Zi8 mainly because it has a microphone jack.

But the Flip challenged the industry and pushed smart phone makers like Apple, Samsung, HTC and others to make devices with HD video recording capability which many have said was part of its decline. That may be true to some degree, but it really comes down to the fact that Cisco failed at the consumer market because at its core it's really a B2B company and not a B2C company.

So ends the saga of the Flip Video Camera... whether you loved it or hated it, may it rest in peace.

  • Ronnie Bincer

    Tough break for the Flip. I too wished it had better sound... but it really was a great tool to open up video to the masses.

    We will miss you Flip.

    I wonder what will take its place.

    • Klessblog

      I just learned of a grassroots campaign to try to save the Flip, and while I don't think it will help much it has been a way for Flip fans to sound off and share their stories.

  • Jules

    Just to correct something, all the latest Flip Ultra HD 3g's did in fact have a microphone input!

    It was called a Flip Port. The future release of 3rd party accessories was announced in press releases end of 2010 including a bluetooth mic, a blue mikey souped up external mic and regular audio in jack, a projector, and an external card reader. This might have put Flip back on top of the Pocket Video Camera world.

    The mics were due Jan 2011 then put back to March which was odd. A lot of people upgraded their cameras or bought new ones soley in readiness for these products. No-one seems to have asked these 3rd party manufacturers what they make of the flip disappearing? Maybe these accessories are sat in a warehouse somewhere, and will never get released... who knows!

    • Klessblog

      I'm aware of the proprietary FlipPort and actually covered it on my blog:

      But like you said, these accessories were supposed to come out. So the Flip "mic input" really wasn't a standard 1/8" stereo mic input that you'd expect, like in the Kodak Zi8 and was again, a proprietary port thanks to Cisco.

  • Phil

    Please be aware that "its" (possessive) is not the same as "it's" (contraction of 'it is'). There's no apostrophe in "its".

    "It's" is used incorrectly numerous times in this article.

    • Klessblog

      Thanks, Phil. I corrected the it's to its. I know the rule but my eyes seem to miss it. Let me know if I can send copy your way for editing.

  • pgdaddy

    I think the biggest problem with the Flip vs. it's competitors was it's lack of microSD or SD slots. There was no way to expand it's memory, which gets eaten up quickly when you record in HD. I almost bought a Flip but went with the zi8 instead because of this.

    • Klessblog

      You're right, that's another big drawback for the Flip. Especially when you load a 32 GB SD card in the Kodak Zi8, and get over 4 hours of 720p video.

  • Mojo Jojo

    No wonder Cisco is stagnant with decisions like this coming down.

    • Klessblog

      It's quite possible the CEO will be ousted he can't fix things. He's been CEO for 16 years and during that time Cisco went from being a $500 billion company in 2000 to a $94 billion market cap today.

  • Jordan Eilbert

    I really am shocked they would kill it without at least selling the rights. That's a pure loss and a poor business decision. You may as well sell it to another company that would like the brand-name and make some profit vs just closing up shop... Cisco's business strategy seems faltering just on that decision alone, part of your core business or not, your core business is business and to aquire the device from one company, sell like hotcakes, and then want to change direction you may as well profit from it int he end rather then simply killing it off and keeping the rights to yourself.

    • Mark Robertson

      That's the hardest part for me to figure out as well.

    • Klessblog

      Video is still an important part of Cisco's business strategy (e.g. Telepresence, Videoconferencing, Unified Communications) but it's been more successful in the corporate sector rather than the consumer market. A number of tech and investor blogs all suggested the same thing about why Cisco folded rather than sold the Flip business. See the end of this CNET article for insight on it. The article point out, "Zeus Kerravala, an analyst for Yankee Group, who has followed Cisco for more than a decade suspects the company may want to hold onto the intellectual property", and at some point it could incorporate the Flip's recording capability into its Telepresence systems. Read more:

      • Jordan Eilbert

        Integrating the technology itself I can understand, as well as holding onto the basic IP. Again, I would ask though, integrating or not, it's still possible to sell off the name/current tech and still keep it for a rainy day. Simply adding into the contract "Cisco reserves the rights to innovate on the technology it created in the Flip Mini-camera" unless they are specifically going to call it "Flip Integrated Camera system.", which seems a loss in the end regardless, because making the technology a value add is very nice, but you were still making more profits on the small, cheap, and let's not forget, popular flip camera.

        I personally am not a fan of the flip, I'm always one for a better quality camera, but I saw the market easily. Kids, teens, someone looking for a cheap (close to disposable) video, concert goers (I wouldn't want to bring my high end camera to a concert for fear of it being jostled or broken... but a flip seems more durable.)

        I guess in the end we're all just surprised they would give up this additional revenue stream.

        • Klessblog

          I read a lot of comments on other blogs that said if Cisco sold the Flip to another company, and that company proved to make the Flip much more successful than Cisco's attempt, it would reflect poorly on the current management who are already under fire. Cisco paid $590 million for the Flip and will spend no more than $300 million on the restructuring plan, so one could speculate that they couldn't spend any more on this product line if they wanted to best uphold shareholder interests. That's almost $900 million, I know, but Cisco is currently valued at $40 billion, and just last year had about $23 billion to spend on M&As. So perhaps this is was "an acceptable loss" for Cisco.

          Also, on Easy Money Investing, Brent Bracelin, senior research analyst in the San Francisco office of Pacific Crest Securities was quoted as saying, "Cisco has had to make decisions quickly, and this won’t be the last business it shuts down. The consumer business absolutely hurt Cisco in the last quarter... Cisco has to do things fast. Selling Flip could take too much time.”

  • SantaClaus

    A similar fate befell the MAGNAVOX VIDEOWRITER decades ago.

    • Klessblog

      Remember Sony Betamax? It was better than VHS, but lost out.

  • Yvonne

    'The Flip Flop'...this almost makes the flop of flip worthwhile! it is very surprising to see them pull the plug on it and not profit from selling it on.

    • Klessblog

      I wanted to use that in the title of this post, but Ragan Communications used it in their post: Did Flip flop? Many communicators say popular digital cam’s time had come

      The general consensus among many analysts and bloggers say that Cisco really didn't know what they were doing in the consumer market, so they folded. (Insert Kenny Rodgers' "The Gambler" here)

  • Tinu

    I would have to say yes to the title question. In reading the article, I recognize some of its drawbacks, such as the lack of a mic input. But the Flip will remain in memory as my first foray into the world of video. Will never forget how butthurt I was when I lost my first one, with pictures of all my nieces and nephews still on it.

    • Klessblog

      I loved my first Flip too! Like I said in the short video, it helped me move away from dealing with videotape which was a very time intensive process to get online (shoot video, digitize footage in real-time, render... repeat for each video). So, I think it will be fondly remembered by many of us and the fact that it was still selling strong is proof that there's a market for stand alone pocket camcorders that don't require a data plan.