Its an old romance story:
Boy meets girl. Boy romances girl. And then boy (or it is girl?) realizes, "OMG, did I make a mistake!" And somebody gets dumped.
Well, that*s exactly what happened to the Flip Camera, with the recent shocking news that our old friend, the Flip Cam, is no more.
But the upshot could have some pretty drastic consequences for those of us looking to leverage online video big time.
Or does it?
Here's the Cliff Notes version:
About 2 years ago, tech giant Cisco Systems bought out the founders of the Flip Camera for a whopping half a billion (with a B!) dollars.
Unfortunately, this happened just around the time smart phones stopped being just phones and became more like little computers that fit in your pocket. Including built-in video cameras. And even editing software.
The Flip*s fortunes plummeted. And Cisco – a giant $40 billion dollar company – decided the profit margins on the Flip just aren't worth the trouble.
And just like that: One of tech's biggest success stories is no more.
So if you own a Flip (or if you wanted to) what should you do?
1. Reality Check
If you currently own a Flip, it will continue to work just fine. It will still let you create videos quickly and easily. And let you continue to use it for everything you have been using it for up to now.
The camera isn't going to quit on you just because Cisco bailed out. Honest! So it will continue to work for you. Probably for years.
2. If you act fast …
If you had your heart set on a Flip, you can still get one. An April 17 check of Amazon.com revealed you can still buy one. And you can probably always be able to pick one up on eBay.
3. Cisco promises continued support …
At least for now, Cisco has said it will continue to provide support for "current Flipshare customers and partners with a transition plan".
Of course, no one knows what the heck that means. The good news is: Not that that much support is needed.
The whole idea of portable micro cameras is they don't need a lot of support. Plus there is a huge cottage industry of free tutorials on using the Flip.
Just head on over to YouTube and type "Flip Video Tutorial" in the search box. See what I mean?
4. Is it really dead?
To paraphrase Mark Twain, is news of the Flip's death greatly exaggerated? While the Flip*s fortunes were a poor match for Cisco, it might make a great match for a smaller company with lower expectations and margin requirements.
The fact is, its still the best-selling camcorder on Amazon.
Is it still possible someone might revive the Flip? Of buy the technology and integrate it into their own model camera?
(Unless … as David Pogue of the New York Times theorizes … Cisco really bought the Flip for the technology for its video conferencing division. And is killing the camera so it can integrate the tech into its core business. Hmmm …)
5. On the Rebound
Of course the classic advice when you get dumped … "There are other fish in the sea!" … applies here as well.
The Kodak Zi8 is a huge favorite with business owners shooting their own video. And even has a jack to plug-in an external mic for much better audio.
And while it has also been discontinued, you can still find them listed on Amazon. And you can always pick one up on eBay.
6. The high end is within reach
It used to be that to get a 'real' camcorder would run you $600-$700 (or more!) Well as each year goes by … that price plummets. While these dedicated camcorders aren't quite as simple to use, with just a little effort (i.e. read the manual!) you should be able to figure it out.
On the plus side, they also offer features many of the microcameras don't:
- Audio input jack for external microphones
- Better video quality
- Better image stabilization
And often a higher quality lens and better video quality in marginal lighting conditions.
7. What about point and shoot?
You also might want to check your still camera. Chances are, it shoots video as well. Really! Now you are going to have to apply yourself by (Oh God, here he goes again!) reading the manual that comes with the camera to figure out how to do it.
But your rememedy to the Flip Flop might already be right in your office drawer. And a lot of these cameras do a surprisingly good job!
8. And smart phones?
I know I*m a Neanderthal … but I don't own a smart phone. However, my feeling is that cameras that come with smart phones are still limited for professional purposes.
They're fine for shooting Johnny's birthday. But not your next product launch. So its a bit frustrating that one of the alternatives that killed the Flip, just won't cut the mustard for us. While this may change, I wouldn't bet my business on Smart Phone quality video for your business just yet.
Smart phones also don't have any way to attach a tripod … crucial for those of us who need a stable shot. (So we don't make our customers dizzy while we are talking to them.)
Well it looks like I am indeed a Neanderthal (at least on some things!)
A few readers have commented that you do get good video quality on an iPhone4. And you can find tripods for the iPhone as well as an adapter that allows you to attach an existing tripod to your Android phone.
9. And of course … there's still the webcam
You laugh. Until you have to shoot a video in 60 seconds to beat a deadline. (Try that with a camcorder!) Quite a few webcams deliver decent quality. I have an older model Logitech which does the job. But newer models, including the Logitech Webcam Pro C910 and the Logitech 720p Webcam C510 are getting rave reviews.
Plus, they don't require a tripod for a stable shot. You can capture yourself a lot more easily than you can with a camcorder.
And once you learn how to use them, they're faster than email. Really.
So there are alot of alternatives.
So what are you going to do, now that the Flip is gone?
Do you own one? Are you thinking of buying one, regardless? Of do you have your own alternative? Let us know … share your thoughts, ideas and reactions in the comments.