End of the Flip

Random Errors

Jeremy Smith / Sun Star Columnist
April 19, 2011

A friend said that they kept hearing that you can’t buy the Flip video camcorder anymore, but that they are still for sale in stores, and wanted to know what gives.

For folks who don’t know, the Flip was one of the first affordable, ultra-portable video camcorders. It was created by Pure Digital Technologies and was marketed in CVS/Pharmacy stores as the “Pure Digital Point & Shoot” video camcorder in May of 2006.

The original camera was about half the size of a DVD case, had a 2x digital zoom and a pop-out USB connection for quick and easy uploads. Along with decent battery life, and a sub $200 price tag, it was entirely flash-memory based; eschewing the then standard tape- or disc-based recording systems. There was a single button for starting and stopping recordings and another to control the zoom. It was a simple two button affair that just about anyone could use with nearly no instruction.

In 2007, Pure Digital Technologies changed the camera’s name to Flip. New versions supporting HD recording and direct YouTube uploads flooded businesses. At the time, I was working for a local office supply store and spent a few hours running around the store taking the camcorder through its paces. It was rugged, extremely fast and ridiculously easy to use. Granted, you couldn’t really zoom in without adding digital artifacts, and the microphone was pretty lackluster, but you sure could accurately capture someone buying a palette of copy paper.

Cisco, the networking company behind the Linksys brand, bought the Flip name and related technologies back in 2009.  They revamped the line again with larger capacities and photography options, all at the historic low price.

The good times couldn’t last forever though. Cisco just announced that they were going to close down the Flip division. This means that you can still buy the Flip stock that is sitting in stores, but there won’t be any more made.

Tech outlets have been guessing about the reasons behind Cisco’s cancellation of the Flip. Mashable.com suggested that video cameras, “[are] as good (if not better) on modern smartphones” and that “phones have a built-in data connection and can upload video directly to the web.” In an interview with NPR, PC Magazine’s Lance Ulanoff echoed the sentiment that smartphones were the Flip’s downfall. “Why would someone carry a dedicated camcorder when they already have one on their phone?”

There are other options on the market that can fill the portable video camcorder niche, but the Flip was one of the first and most successful. At the 2011 Alaska Press Club conference, I learned about a reporter who covered this year’s Iditarod Sled Dog race. He used his Flip camcorder to capture comments and interviews with mushers as they entered checkpoints. The content was wildly popular according to his newspaper’s web team, and it shows a slick professional use for the now discontinued video camcorder.

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