The New Flip (Bonus Question: Does the Flip Have a Future?)

By  |  Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Flip Mino HDA new high-end $229.99 version of the Flip MinoHD pocket camcorder is out–it’s got 8GB of memory (up from 4GB), a bigger screen and an HDMI port. It’s also got a new aluminum case which the Flip folks say makes this “the world’s sleekest HD camcorder” and which Gizmodo raves over–although oddly enough, the official specs seem to say that the new version is a tad chunkier than the old one. (The marketing materials refer to “soft, rounded edges”–maybe they give the new Mino, which I haven’t seen in person, a svelter feel than its predecessor.)

The new Mino sounds cool, and  the whole Flip line’s image quality for the price, industrial design, clever features (like the pop-out USB connector), and general commitment to usability are commendable. You gotta think that the clock is ticking on the whole product category, though–between phones with video camera capability and ever-better video from still cameras and video built into still other devices, the world isn’t going to need dedicated low-end video cameras forever. I don’t expect Flips to go away immediately–for one thing, even the standard definition ones have much better image quality than my iPhone 3GS–but I’d love to know what Cisco has in the works that might make the $590 million it spent to buy the Flip into a smart investment rather than the technological equivalent of buying a gallon of milk even though its expiration date is about to come.

 
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11 Comments For This Post

  1. Dave Barnes Says:

    “Does the Flip Have a Future?”
    No.
    Not at the low end.

  2. Guan Says:

    Like you said, there will be people who will want dedicated devices for specific tasks. Consider this – with user-generated video becoming more of a ubiquitous web product, and increase in portals for posting stuff online, we may see folks actually looking out for the nice combination of portability/ quality these devices offer. The iPhone/ Nano video cam for fun shots and spontaneous activity, the Flip for that nifty iReport opportunity, or impromptu interview. I think there will be enough folks who will want to carry both, esp if the form factor continues to improve.

  3. Darrell Says:

    You call .03″ thicker “chunkier”? That’s the only change in dimension, thought it is .8 oz heavier. I suspect the average person will be unable to tell the difference, holding the old and new in each hand. The main point is that it still fits comfortably in your pocket, unlike the UltraHD and a number of other Flip-alike camcorders.

    When a cell phone gets 720p, enough memory for HD, and still fits comfortably in your pocket, then the Flip could be in trouble. Meanwhile, Flips may take a direction none of the others are expecting. Ask yourself why Cisco acquired them.

  4. Jared Newman Says:

    Turn it into a software platform, or a white label service. Because that’s what you do when your hardware tanks.

  5. Harry McCracken Says:

    @Darrell: Maybe I should have said “very, very, very slightly chunkier.” But it’s still interesting that the dimensions didn’t -decrease- given that they’re pitching it as being sleeker. And I agree that Cisco may have interesting plans we don’t know about…

    –Harry

  6. Relyt Says:

    The Flip does not have a future.

  7. Darrell Says:

    Harry, not to be argumentative, but “sleeker” doesn’t always mean “smaller.” They’re referring to its gentle curves vs. hard edges. You don’t get smaller by doubling the memory and increasing the LCD size. Not yet, anyway.

    Cisco has said publicly that they expect Flip to play a role in “visual networking” and even “visual telepresence.” Those statements are more interesting, and certainly more relevant, to whether or not Flip has a future than anything you’ve referred to.

    I’m not sure why you think small camcorders have a limited future. If you have a camcorder in your pocket, with good video quality, with ease of getting that video onto a network, it gets used in ways that cameras and camcorders have never been used: to communicate your life, rather than to archive it.

  8. Harry McCracken Says:

    @Darrell: You’re not being argumentative, but I said in the post that I thought they might be referring to the softer edges when they said it was sleeker, so I understand.

    I also lavished praise on the Flips (I own, use, and like one and have given them as gifts) and said I don’t think they’re going anywhere immediately. But if the video cameras built into most phones catch up with the quality and usability of today’s Flips–and they will at some point–Flip needs to get substantially better and/or go in new directions. I’m sure Cisco has plans for the products, technology, and brand that go way beyond its current state, but I think it’s all a gamble, not a slam dunk. I’m a fan, so I hope Flip flourishes.

    -Harry

  9. Backlin Says:

    Darell says, “Cisco has said publicly that they expect Flip to play a role in “visual networking” and even “visual telepresence.” Those statements are more interesting, and certainly more relevant, to whether or not Flip has a future than anything you’ve referred to.”

    When cell phones and their networks have enough power and bandwidth to become a prominent role in “visual networking” and “visual telepresence”, where will the Flip be? I’m hoping it would be in the higher resolution, bigger lens, and bigger CMOS sensor leagues, and still maintain the price point that it’s at now; or maybe a little higher.

  10. Fanfoot Says:

    Does the flip have a future? Sure for 2-3 years. Then its essentially dead. We have a Mino HD and like it very much. But the category is getting crowded, with numerous new entrants, and the only place for prices to go is down. Dedicated video cameras with zoom and great optics will still find a market, though as you say they might be still/video cameras. But the specialized low-end video only cameras will be going the way of the dodo bird soon enough.

    The iPod Touch will be getting a video camera with the next revision obviously, when Apple shakes out whatever problem postponed the implementation this time. And slowly but surely the quality will get better. Personally I’m surprised the new Mino HD doesn’t have image stabilization, since the new Kodak model has that now, and its obviously a significant advance. But eventually that too will end up in cell phones and MP3 players. These single function devices won’t survive the onslaught. Not in any volume anyway.

    And no, they’ll never justify the price Cisco paid. And that gobbledygook about Telepresence doesn’t change that.

  11. Tom B Says:

    I shoot more video (SD) with my Canon 3s IS than my old Canon Elura 10. The killer features of the Flip: small, cheap, HD. Not durable advantages, I’m afraid.