|Bye bye flip.|
So Cisco decided to kill the flip video camera. Good decision? I am not sure. The word on the street has all facets of opinions.
Stephen Baker, Industry analyst from NPD calls it "a bad decision on so many levels that it is difficult to fit them all into one discussion." For a thorough comment I left on his blog apparently was not much space either as NPD decided to delete it. I had partially disagreed with the limited analysis as it only focused on past and current sales data, lacking a future outlook. It must not have sat too well with the NPD folks.
Sam Biddle from Gizmodo sits on the other side of the spectrum. He seems to welcome the decision as he calls the flip "a product nobody needed anymore or cared about." (links to both articles at the bottom of this article). I tend to disagree with him as well, for various reasons, and I want to tell you why both of them are wrong.
ONE: Mr. Baker from NPD calls Cisco's move a "cowardly act". Au contraire. In the business world, this is called a strategic move. Cisco made a strategic decision not to be in the consumer domain any longer and focus and invest in other parts of their business. So what? Apple is a consumer company. Cisco is not. Remember Sega? They decided to shut down their gaming console business when Microsoft announced they would enter the market. Sega was still doing solid numbers at the time. Nevertheless they left the playground. Simple business strategy.
TWO: Mr. Baker criticizes Cisco's "relative lack of exposure to consumer trends". Well, if you are a consumer goods company, then that would be disastrous. If you are not, and your value and supply chain is well integrated, and you are working with your business partners in harmony, then you need not worry about consumer trends. Your business customers sitting at that end of the value chain will take care of this part. This is called the division of labor and the focus on core competencies.
THREE: Mr. Giddle thinks "the blame should be aimed squarely at the smartphone in your pocket." According to the NPD market evaluation, flip was still doing pretty well in 2010 compared to 2009. Yes, the smartphones got better. Yes, the smartphones got smarter. Yes, the camera functionality got better. Yes, yes, yes, But! Does that mean flip never had a chance?
The good thing about NPD is that they have got the numbers. The problem with NPD is that they are too focused on their numbers, and can really only comfortable voice an opinion until the last submission from their retail sales tracking software. The good thing about Gizmodo is that they know their tech stuff. The problem with Gizmodo is that they too easily get lost in the technicalities of things, without a broader outlook.
Here are a few thoughts how flip could have lived on, or could have been saved (in my opinion of course. You are entitled to disagree.)
A) FROM FLIP CAMERA TO FLIP-PHONE
Cisco, as part of their business strategy, could have decided to enter the smartphone market by turning the flip camera into a flip smartphone. flip has a strong, and solid following, and it would have been only an evolution, a continuation of a story vs. the introduction of a completely new device. Other devices, such as Garmin or Nuevi GPS navigation devices have chosen such a strategy. If they will be successful, only time will tell.
B) KEEPING IT SIMPLE
Technical devices, especially in the digital day and age, tend to become more and more complicated with each version. More features, more buttons, more menus. Consequently that all adds up to more complexities, and I challenge you to confidently say you have already explored your devices capabilities at 100%. I actually doubt it. I just recently had a friend discover the 'Zoom' function on her iPhone after she had it for over a year.
This would have been the chance for the flip. Keeping it simple as 1-2-3. Not too many buttons. No confusing menus. Add to that Moore's law and the tendency of lower production cost as time moves on, and the flip could have been a low-cost device, easily replaceable and disposable. Not a big tragedy if it gets lost (vs. losing your iPhone or bberry!), but always a fun toy to have around at weddings, birthday parties, hiking and biking trips, you name it. Going Ultra HD with the flip was the wrong way. There is no way you enter the professional domain with this tiny device. Going the other way would have been a better option.
But Cisco apparently decided not go invest in R&D, and marketing, and a sales staff for such a device. So end of story. R.I.P. flip camera. You will (or will not) be missed.
Stephen Baker's NPD Industry Analysis
The flip website