Cisco's Flip Camcorders Bite the Dust

The Flip camcorder is no more.

Cisco announced that it will shut down the Flip video camera line as part of a restructuring of its consumer business. In addition to killing the Flip, Cisco will focus its umi video conferencing products on the enterprise, but will continue to sell home Internet routers in retail stores. For current FlipShare users, Cisco says it's working on a transition plan.

In 2009, Cisco bought Pure Digital, creator of the Flip, for $590 million in stock. The acquisition was part of Cisco's plan to capture what it thought was a growing field of video communication among consumers.

While Flip cameras have improved steadily over the last two years -- the latest Flip MinoHD and UltraHD added 60 frames per second video capture -- Cisco rarely experimented with the Flip's familiar candy bar shape. The one recent exception was the Flip SlideHD, a camera with a nice touchscreen but frustrating controls. The latest Flip cameras don't even include optical zoom, which is standard among digital cameras with video recording.

Cisco also swung and missed on FlipShare TV, a set-top box designed to let people watch their videos, along with videos from other Flip camera users, on a big screen through a dedicated online channel. It seemed a bit redundant in the age of YouTube and Facebook.

All the while, the threat of smartphones and iPods loomed. When Apple chief executive Steve Jobs introduced the fifth-generation iPod Nano with a video camera in 2009, he called out the Flip for offering just a single function at the same price as Apple's media player. The same is true for smartphones, and although Flip cameras offer better video quality, they don't match the storage capacity, location features and Internet connectivity of modern handsets.

Cisco foreshadowed the Flip's demise in February, when Jonathan Kaplan, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco Consumer Products, resigned. Kaplan was chairman and chief executive of Pure Digital when Cisco acquired the company. Announcing Kaplan's resignation, Cisco said it was taking its consumer business "to the next level."

Apparently that means laying off 550 employees and discontinuing a once-proud line of digital video cameras.

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