What Cisco’s Flip-Flop Means To You

A once $200 portable video camera (Flip Mino HD) for $87. Not too shabby.

Online-video was heavily influenced by the popular Flip cameras because they were easy to use and convert to YouTube. I was somewhat disheartened by Cisco’s decision to buy Flip in March 2009, but hey… what’s $590 million on 2009 sales of more than $36 billion, right? Large tech companies have made stranger acquisitions (IBM/PWC).

I was more surprised that Cisco, a B2B network leader, flip-flopped by shutting down Flip this spring. Many applauded the move due to Flip’s pressure from real-time gratification of video-enabled phones and less expensive camera/video hybrids. But I’d argue Flip had a sustainable niche if it continued to innovate and partner, as well as broaden the range of its cameras to include less expensive versions or slightly higher end cameras (with such features as an optional zoom lense or mic inputs).

Flip’s competitive advantage was its ultra simplicity and soup-to-nuts functionality. How many other manufacturers embed IBM and Mac-friendly software that is user-friendly and fairly functional?

I’ll go out on a limb here (with no other information than gut) and speculate that some electronic manufacturer will make an offer on Flip to acquire its brand equity, patents and software. However I imagine Cisco’s pride will make it difficult to allow the transfer. While Cisco has little use for Flip’s remaining assets, cognitive dissonance usually prevents buying something for half a billion and selling it for tens of millions (what I imagine it’s worth).

But let’s get to you. What does this mean to YOU? Right now Flips are hyper affordable, and the best bang-for-the-buck in the space. If you can live with the paranoia of Flip’s inevitable decision to stop servicing them (an irrational concern given the lifecycle of these), they’re a steal. I picked up the Flip Mino HD for $100 at Staples tonight, and it’s only $87 on Amazon. Yes- a Flip Mino HD for $87. Less than a year and a half ago (Sept. 2010) this puppy was debuted at about $200. Jan wanted me to tell you the Flip Mino HD with 8GB ($99) is a better deal. I guess it depends on how much you shoot… I usually clear the camera before it gets close to an hour.

Sure, you might prefer picking up a Canon Powershot A300IS for about the same price, and I couldn’t blame you. Nice camera. Or you could check out this buying guide and find something with better features, and even better audio.

Is the Flip the best in the portable videocamera market? Not anymore. But the reality is that it’s small, pretty darned good, inexpensive, and easy to use. And while we’ll eventually be happy with our Smart Phone videocameras, they’re still not offering great video quality or audio… and they’re a pain in the ass to use to edit and upload. Getting video off the iPhone and onto a computer is a pain in the ass. Plus I often want to operate both at the same time, and I’m not pleased with the iPhone 4 video quality. Furthermore, the iPhone’s slow speed and unpredictability of the “upload to YouTube” feature is weak… it compresses it poorly unless you’re on a wifi or local network.

57 Replies to “What Cisco’s Flip-Flop Means To You”

  1. Meh, I never liked Flip cameras. Too cheap and gimmicky.

    Speaking of cameras, why do you not have any DSLRs and lenses on your Video Camera Buying Guide link up top?

  2. I really enjoy my Ultra HD. Ive only had to to return it once for a non functional USB arm. Best Buy had no prob and gave me a new one. I had a nice month on the tubes and was able to pick up a Canon Powershot Elph 300 HS, and love it. I love having the choice to take pictures. Yes, I know you can can take a still off the Flip, but its not the same. The 1080 is awesome(But a pain the ass to edit and upload!). Features are really nice like Macro. Flip lacked that from the start. My old Kodak ZI6 even had Macro.
    The microphones:Flip, nice stereo that can handle loud music from my band and other things. Wind, not so well. The 300 HS, has a nice stereo mic, only thing is where they place it my fingers sometimes hit them, so a small tripod is recommended. As for loud sounds with that cam, very little compression and sounds nice!
    Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, the Flip is still a nice back up camera and I hope it doesn’t crap out soon. I have some video tests on my page if you wanna see a low light/loud sound test and stuff! http://www.youtube.com/Delaypat <~~~Whore!

  3. now you got me all worked up – Since I finally given up on my quest for a video cam from Renetto… I read the Amazon reviews and if I wanted a throwaway vid cam this IS a good deal – but I don’t want a throwaway and I don’t want to send a camera into the shop to replace the batter or have to wait to recharge it via the computer.

    SO if I’m willing to pay a bit more for the same quality of picture audio or better what do you or anyone recommend?

  4. Yeah this is one of those ones I’ll just leave in my car or computer bag (or get stolen by the kids). Alexis- I just wanted to provide some generic basics… but HAPPY to give you a link for more loot you’re buying! 🙂

  5. I hope to see a lot of comments here on which is the best option. The video isn’t bad the sound was okay – very tempted.

    also the buying guide was really helpful – click on that

  6. Jan, what is your budget, what kind of thing do you plan on using it for the most, and what features matter the most to you. I’m sure we can find something to suit you well enough.

    Kevin, it just seemed silly to have a high-end/DSLR category if there’s nothing in it. I am planning on acquiring more loot eventually–the 5D Mark III if and when it is ever released and a few L lenses when they go on sale.

  7. 1st Amazon has free one day shipping on this camera AND you can get a better the case for $4 more or the tripod case and some other junk for $13.


    1. the price is right, but I could go an extra 20
    2. this looks pretty good I like the stabilizer and Kevin’s suggestion of a plug in mic.
    3. I’d like 8GBs, but 4GBs okay – if there’s an extra mem slot, great.
    4. I’d like a connection wire not direct into the computer port.
    5. Removable and rechargeable battery.

    How’s that?

  8. Jan, in addition to the Flip linked in the post, also consider the Kodak PlaySport ($113 on Amazon) or the Kodak Zi8 ($155 new on Amazon or $80 + shipping for a refurbished model).

    The Zi8 can take an external mic and I think both take SD/SDHC cards, have digital image stabilization, and use removable/rechargeable batteries.

  9. well I went over to amazon and read a bunch of the reviews on Kodak

    Mostly the 1 and 2 star reviews. Not that I’m a pessimist, but I like to know the worst case scenario.

    So I watched the videos, read the comparisons, did a little googling and found that Kodak has really super crappy CS.

    When I compared what you get for the two camera the flip comes out ahead – least video and CS wise.

    The internal mic was a draw on all the cameras except the Zi8 which will use an external

    I also found out that the USB connection on the flip cam can be dealt with.

    The battery on the flip was the only concern since flip will be out of service 12/2013.

    Course this always makes me wonder if corporations get rid of good products because they’re made well and last too long.

    So the flip camera is only good for 4 years tops, roughly $22 a year and you have to plan carefully when you use it or buy two

    I don’t video tape everything I do so I wouldn’t use this a lot so I’m still deciding, but I would let it run so I’m leaning towards the 8GBs

    course I could just get something better that has everything I want – the question is what is the cost of everything I want?

  10. “As part of the transition, Cisco plans to eliminate 550 jobs.”

    ahhh yes another example of corporate assholishness

    Simon Leopold, an analyst with Morgan, Keegan & Company, estimates that Flip camera sales total about $400 million annually. This is small compared with Cisco’s total yearly revenue of about $40 billion, but sales of this product could have been significant to a potential acquirer.
    So why didn’t Cisco simply sell the Flip product line? After all, NPD’s Baker said that despite the rise in smartphones with similar functionality, there was still a growing market for small, mini camcorders.

    A Cisco representative was unable to provide insight into the decision-making process except to say, “In theory, at a high level (selling the division) may have been possible, but Cisco’s team did a detailed analysis, and it was determined that the best thing to do was to shut down the business.”

    Yankee Group’s Kerravala suspects the company may want to hold onto the intellectual property.

    “The fact that they aren’t selling off the technology makes me think that the technology may wind up in other Cisco products down the road,” he said. “For instance, Cisco has talked about adding recording capabilities to its telepresence products.”

  11. I’m not a videophile like some here…our videocamera has been used about 3 times in the last 4 years. I coveted a Flip since I heard about it and Cisco’s announcement drove me to get it while I could. BTW, we own and use regularly a prosumer 35MM Nikon so go figure.

    In the 2 months I’ve had it, I’ve used it regularly for all the reasons it became popular…simple, portable, respectable quality, all-in-one, ease of sharing…and because those reasons more than satisfy my video needs. I’ve raved about it on FB and I know a few folks who have bought one as a result.

    One day, it may be be obsolete…altho’ some have thought the point-and-shoot cameras would be gone by now, too…but it’s the right product for right now for a good market segment. Too bad Cisco is pulling the plug but Kevin is right..they won’t back down.

  12. How did you determine Flip comes out ahead video wise? They seem pretty similar at 720p 30fps. But the Zi8 has 720p 60fps (which should help smooth things a bit) and 1080p as well.

    As far as customer service goes, if you buy from Amazon, then I wouldn’t think you’d have much trouble getting a refund/replacement if necessary for either product. The Kodak software is probably pretty lame, but I don’t think I’ve ever used included software with any of the various cameras I’ve owned.

    As far as longevity, technology at this price point is basically seen as disposable. In a couple of years, it will probably be rather obsolete anyway. You get what you pay for with cheap consumer-level technology.

    Speaking of obsolescence, if you go the Flip route it’s probably worth the extra ~$12 to get the 3rd generation Flip MinoHD instead of the 2nd generation Kevin linked if you want image stabilization and 60fps.

  13. Alexis: 60FPS really doesn’t matter on youtube since they compress everything. My friend has a ZI8, I have the ZI6..they both have the framerate drops that are suuuuuper bad!

  14. Hmmm. I like 60 fps because it makes it easier to do smoother slow motion (I use it for this kind of stuff: http://youtu.be/0iHj9MuJ8HM). If you don’t do much slow-mo and intend to primarily use the video on YouTube, it’s probably not so great. Eventually though, YouTube will probably support 60 fps. They already do 4K and 3D.

  15. Doesn’t seem really competitive. I can’t find anything that makes the Vado HD more appealing than the Flip or the Kodak, unless you need a wider angle view.

    After looking at a couple comparison videos, the Vado HD seems to have some trouble getting colors right (the white balance seems too warm and too green) and adjusting to different lighting smoothly and quickly compared to the Flip. People claim the audio is pretty bad on the Vado, but I think it has an external mic port.

    Hey, I just noticed the Flip UltraHD (as opposed to the MinoHD) has a removable battery plus the option to use 3 AAA batteries instead. The white (8 GB, 3rd Gen) version is $109 on Amazon.

  16. as usual one things leads to another…

    now I’ve got my eye on the Bower wide angle magnetic lens in addition to the flip ultra hd 8gb which the reviews recommend that it’s a good idea to get an extra battery.

    so things start to add, perhaps I should start looking at a different camera altogether

    so here’s a list:
    HD – image stabilization
    4 to 8 GB
    1 – 2 hour rechargeable batter
    USB charge and upload
    wide angle
    plug in mic ability
    protective case esp for lens
    portability – (not a super big deal)

    any additional accessories: tripod, usb wire, plug in mic, wall charger.

    so is this camera worth piecing together or best to buy something that comes complete for a little more money?

  17. Last year, when I was still a Partner, I was able to invest in a JVC GZ-HM1. I saw a review of that line of camcorder, Everio, by Nate Burr : Blunty3000


    AWESOME Camera. Once you get used to the LaserTouch system it’s Incredible. Quality is AWESOME. Sound isn’t too bad, but a bit Tinny. I can plug an external mic on it, but I will have to wait to get one of those. I need a WideAngle lens for better vlogging. Right now I have to reach out as FAR as I can if I am moving. Mr Hand usually helps though.

    I have done some time lapse on it too and I might just do a montage of it instead of one video at a time. who knows.

    I also love that I can just drag the files made from the camera right on to the computer and then right into Adobe Premiere.

  18. @21 It depends what you mean by “a little more money”. I think a Flip UltraHD or a Kodak Zi8 are probably your best options unless you are willing to consider camcorders in the $250 – $500 range or you absolutely need some feature that neither of those have.

  19. More expensive cameras have better video quality and many more controls/options/features.

    For example, some advantages of my Panasonic HDC-TM700 over a Flip UltraHD: 32 GB internal memory + SD card slot, 3MOS sensor (great color/detail and much better low-light/noise performance), 1080p @ 60fps max video resolution (for very smooth and detailed motion), killer optical image stabilization, nice 12x optical zoom (up to 700x with digital zoom), numerous options and manual controls, various ports (HDMI, USB, AV, mic and headphone jacks) plus a place to attach accessories, ability to shoot stills, and a nice big touchscreen.

    I don’t know what you need. If you just want to shoot vlogs, put a Flip cam on a little tripod and most of the aforementioned features are superfluous. If you want to shoot high quality sports footage hand held in a dimly lit gym, then the Flip is not ideal.

    What is your primary intended usage? My Panasonic is nice, but it sucks if you want something cheap that you can pocket easily and carry everywhere.

  20. So how about Cisco sell Flip to Google/YouTube for a 100 million, and the search giant can make it a software platform for getting any portable video-recording device to go from shoot-to-edit-to-post-on-YouTube (for those lacking software or devices that have that built in).

  21. That doesn’t make much sense to me. Flip is primarily hardware. Google doesn’t need to buy it to improve their online video editor. You can already upload files and cut them together on YouTube. I’ve done it myself when uploading videos on my office computer (no video editing software, but super fast connection).

  22. Nalts, Alexis: Google has a Phone. Integrate the Flip techlogogy into the phone, after miniturizing it more, there you have the best mobile video/vlogging phone out there combine with the best Online Video distribution system.

    According to jischinger Flip is worth $300M
    Nalts Offers $100M
    Lets call it even and do $200M

    NALTS! Make the Video. Tell Google/YouTube to BUY Flip!

  23. What exactly is this “Flip techlogogy”? I don’t think Flip has some kind of special tech, at least nothing that would transfer into a mobile phone easily.

  24. Alexis:

    It is not necessarity the Basic technology that the camera is using, but the technology and how it is Built. (Patented I am sure.) From what I have seen online and in videos, the “Circuitboard” is actually a multilayered. People have tried to take them apart and use them modified and failed. Some have tried to use just the camera to try to use it as a spycam with the rest of the guts someplace else.

    That engineering technology is the “Flip Technology.” They have take a High Quality/High Definition camera/camcorder and built it into a VERY small space. And made it so that you plug it right in to you computer without extra wires. If they had continued to develop the technology, they would probably have a Smaller camera with a FULL HD capabilities.

    If Google buys Flip, then not only are they getting a High Quality Video Camera that is Loved by Many YouTubers, but they are also gaining the Engineering that comes with it.

    Imagine Google using that along with their Mobile Andriod Phones and growing from there.

    YouTubers would probably Flock to something like that especially if the Top Tubers do.

  25. @kidsock – that’s why they won’t sell it – if they decide to get into the phone biz or if someone violates the copyright they will make more money by suing without all the headaches of customer support.

    This is just another example how copyright laws stop innovation and progress.

    In my new country copyright won’t last more than 4 years.

  26. @kiddsock – can you imagine how many google would sell? Then when google decides to attache their phone to it…

    To make it worth Cisco’s while they would have offer at least $1B maybe $2B.

  27. @34 That’s not what I meant. The Flip cameras do not have jacks for external mics as far as I can tell, so to use an external mic you would have to record to a separate device and then sync the audio with the video after on your computer. That’s a lot of extra hassle in my opinion.

    The built in mic on the Flip UltraHD is supposed to be decent, but if having an external mic is critical then the Kodak Zi8 seems a more logical choice in my opinion.

  28. thanks @John http://tiny.cc/io4xw

    now wasn’t that and interesting article – makes me not want to buy flip cause Cisco sounds like a bunch of jerks.

    Just think of all the people out of work? all the new jobs this would have created? all the apps and hardware that would have been developed?

    I was looking at the two mics created for the flip ultra HD – both the BlueMic and Scosche were ready to go then flip pulled the rug. I can’t imagine the disappointment and funds lost.

    I was going to call Cisco today and ask why they made their decision perhaps, they might want to reconsider.

    Now I’d rather call a few stock holders.

    Seems when ever a corporation in the US makes something good, perhaps too good, or find a near miracle drug they pull it from the market and bury it under copyright then kill any progress or future innovations.

    Just wait until I start my new country! Copyright will be high on the list to deal with.

    Copyright laws threaten our online freedom

    Seriously, the revolution can’t come soon enough for me!

    why would such a huge company put the kabosh on something that would make them billions! you tube live is begging for better tech – they’d have the best and be on the ground floor!

    Unless… the technology didn’t work OR something in the device was already copy-written why would they squash a branch that is flourishing?

    whatever the reason, something smells mighty fishy.

  29. OH check out the FlipPort. I had no idea. That’s like the apple dockingport.

    The Flip REally could become a miniature Prosumer Video Recording device. It needs a few features:
    -Small diameter lens attachment ring.
    -FlipPort Hub
    -Externnal Mic Jack

    Imagine a waterproof/rugged versino of this. competition for the HD PRo.

    it could be the iPhone for Video Recording. If they miss this opportunity, then that would be sad. The next version of the iPhone will be hard to be, because more than likely it will have full HD Capabilities. But who knows.

  30. The problem with current copyright law is if your idea is swiped you need a lawyer and I believe that if you need a lawyer it ought to be to save your life from the hangmen’s noose.

    Further, I think that if a person believes in God or a God(s) then they have no right to copyright anything and call it solely their own. Philosophically, you can’t separate the two.

    I live in a world were the arts flourish because art is good for humanity. I also believe that since the earth gives everything for free, the basic necessities like shelter, clean food & water, education, health care, communication, productive work; with purpose, are a human right.

    In that world copyright isn’t an big issue.

    Course, I think giving people credit for their work and ideas makes us more culturally sophisticated, enlighten and a grateful species.

    I know some people will scoff, giggle, shrug or wince – but in the final analysis we all end up in the same place anyway, but to those giggliers and naysayers I say it’s best to think twice, act right and live what you believe now cause you don’t get to do it when you’re dead.

    too heavy?
    funny mood.

  31. In the words of the famous Dr. Emmett Brown: There’s that word again; “heavy”. Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the earth’s gravitational pull?

    But we also have to worry about privacy issues. Streaming from ANYWHERE can be an issue.

    Google: BUY FLip!!

  32. I looked at all the cameras now
    and still haven’t decided

    they don’t make the kodak zi8 any more and the zi10 didn’t get the best reviews

    the flip price is right but it’s only 720 and no external mic

    any thoughts?

  33. Looks like you’ll have to go Camcorder.

    Sony has a Camcorder with a Projector built in!
    HDR-PJ50V Camcorder

    JVC has a FULL 3D camcorder! WOW!
    I was looking on B&H and NewEgg

    (This is not a paid Sponsorship. LOL{Although I Wish})

  34. Hmmm. I thought you found some external mics for the Flip.

    I don’t know what to recommend. For $100, You can’t always get what you want. (But if you try sometimes, well, you just might find, you get what you need.)

    My only thought is that 1080p HD may not be that much better in that price range anyway. With sensors that small and cheap, it’s almost more like uprezzing the video from 720 than actually getting twice as many megapickles. (For me, the 60 fps temporal resolution is more important, but maybe spatial resolution is the critical concern for you?)

    Kiddsock, those camcorders are about an order of magnitude more expensive. If you are willing to drop that much cash, there may be better options available too (depending of course on your individual priorities).

  35. okay, I did it.

    After a long deliberation, hours of research, speaking to some very high ranking professional people who said, “You want a what?” I decided to consult with the local anarchist newspaper (astrology section), then flipped a coin high into the air, which upon landing rolled under the radiator stopping dead upright against the molding whereas I had to jump up and down three times until it fell flat. It landed on tales, but by that time I had forgotten which camera was tales, so I got the flip.

  36. I’ll put this out to all digital audio inventors – make an after market mic for all flip cams – it’s really only a matter of making a swappable or clip on addition of a port for the iphon/ipad – solve the puzzle and you’ll sell millions of them.

    hey, renetto!

  37. I remember before the technology for mp3 players came out and they were calling it “Solid State” Players.

    Think renetto could afford Flip? Imagine the Possibilities of the flip cam! Cisco obviously can not.

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