In one of the most astonishing bits of news we've seen in a long time, the iconic Flip video camera was officially pronounced dead earlier this week. Cisco, which paid US$590 million for the business from Pure Digital just two years ago, has decided to kill the entire company. In an unprecedented scenario, the Flip has been killed outright while holding United States video camera sales market leadership (marginally ahead of Sony and roughly double the share of third-placed Kodak). Why Cisco didn't sell the brand rather than kill it is probably more to do with showing analysts it is serious about remedying its ailments, though if I were a shareholder, I'd be asking why some effort wasn't made to extract value from a market leading brand and retaining the jobs of hundreds of people. The good news is that the Flip 4GB Ultra HD is already down to US$130, which makes it a worthwhile buy if your phone doesn't yet shoot 1080p video.
This topic took more time in internal Gizmag editorial discussions this week than anything else. The Flip is still selling roughly one in four of all video camera sales in the United States of America – the world's largest single consumer electronics marketplace. Has a market leading brand ever been killed outright before? Not that anyone could think of! Surely there's some responsibility to shareholders to attempt to extract value from a brand with such recognition? What about all those jobs? Is any standalone product that can be duplicated in a multi-purpose smartphone doomed?
We're certainly in a time of enormous and disruptive change, but there MUST be more to this than meets the eye – the rise of the smartphone is not something that should have caught Cisco off guard – if it is, then throwing out a company it paid half a billion dollars for won't save them.
On a personal note, I owned and LOVED a Flip Ultra HD before it got stolen. It shot great video and loaded straight into my computer and could be uploaded to Youtube quickly and without fuss. I've been writing about technology for a third of a century and it was a product that genuinely stole a piece of my heart.
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