Does the Flip Camcorder Have a Future?

A 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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