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’sĀ inevitableĀ 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.

Sylvania DV-120 Reviewed, Rated vs. FlipCam

I recently wrote about the Sylvania DV-128, which was $40 shipped. I called it the “poor man’s FlipCam.” Well unfortunately, you get what you pay for. See the footage compared to the FlipCam Mino… the Sylvania is grainy and the audio is overdone… I had to turn it down so it didn’t blast you.

I was expecting the Sylvania to be lower quality, but not this lame. It’s almost as grainy as a $20 digital camera I bought that’s hidden in a pen. Go for the Flipcam Mino instead.

I was excited that someone was getting into a really approachable price point, but this was a mistake for the company trying to move from lightbulbs to consumer electronics. Erodes trust.

Poor Man’s FlipCam: Sylvania DV-128

A few people have written me notes to the extent of, “I wish I could do videos, but my camera is so bad.” I usually tell them to relax, and just make sure the lighting and compression is good. The reality is that those two factors can make up for a lot if your camera is old… then I tell them to settle for a Flipcam, which is easy to use and fairly low cost.

Unfortunately, Flipcam (now owned by Cisco) has resisted providing a lower price-point, and has for years been stuck at the $150 plus level (HD versions are down to about $176, though… so splurge). Meanwhile, there are countless min-video-cam options for people with lower budgets wanting something fairly similar. But FlipCam hasn’t yet, to my knowledge, pursued the Mac strategy (as Apple did with the iPods)… innovate to maintain the higher end buyers, but produce a lower-end unit for the mass-market of $100 peeps.

Today I received a Buy.com offer for a $40 (including shipping) Sylvania DV-128 digital video camera with built in memory and an SD slot. I searched extensively for product reviews or consumer ratings, and found virtually nothing on ePinions, Google, YouTube and Amazon.com.

So I bought it, and will review it on my UncleNalts channel. If it sucks, you’ll hear about it here first. If it’s okay, then I’ll probably suggest it for the price-sensitive people… or folks that want to keep an extra camera around for backup. I expect it to be harder to use, lower picture quality, and poor sound. But at $40 shipped I’m considering it almost “disposable.” Worse case scenario I take it on a dangerous ride down the river.

Again- I like the Flipcams, but that’s because I’ve never bought one. Gotten more than my share of free ones from Google and YouTube, and it does the trick. Katie (my 9 year old) used the FlipCam for all of her 15 mini-episodes of “The Charlie Show” (see www.charlieshow.com). Certainly much better quality than the video capture that comes with some $100-$200 standard photo cameras, but the magic of FlipCam is the incredible ease of use. She chose to edit these videos in iMovie because she knew I could give her the basics. But I’ve played with the FlipCam editing software, and it’s not bad. Comes free with the device, and old cameras automatically prompt you for new firmware.

Hey, Flip cam peeps (and we know you’re reading). Happy to review the new HD one here and on my YouTube channel if you want to send one along. I got a little HD envy seeing Shaycarl’s.

Here’s the source for that Flip HD… buy it so I can make a penny on my Amazon affiliate program. Hah. Flip MinoHD Camcorder, 60 Minutes (Black)