Cisco has recently announced a new generation of the Flip camcorder line. The main attraction: standard-definition is dead, high definition is king. And the Flips can now record 720p video at 60 frames per second.
Don’t get me wrong – the Flip is a huge success. But like Ian Paul from PCWorld I can’t help but wonder for how long will a single-function device last, and when it will be replaced by smartphones or other multi-function devices?
Take digital audio players, for instance. MP3 players, MP4 players – you name it. Does anyone still buy a digital audio player? When you have a great player on your mobile handset (even if you don’t own a smartphone) and when these devices have enough memory to hold your music collection, it seems that no one needs “just” an audio player. And even Apple knows it – just look what they did to the iPod Nano.
Or the GPS receiver. These were very popular just two years ago. But now they are disappearing, as navigation apps are available on every mobile device, some of them for free, it seems weird to carry around a device that does just navigation. Even the GPS receiver manufacturers know it, and they are adding a lot of extra features to the device.
Which brings me back to the Flip – a great device that does one thing brilliantly – record video using a very simple user interface. Well, guess what? The iPhone4 or iPod Touch can do it too now, as well as Droid X and even the new Nokia devices. The user interface is pretty much the same, but then on the smartphones you get so much more.
Flip vs. iPhone4: Which one would you pick?
When my older kid was born I thought of buying a video camera. Eventually I didn’t. And instead I’m shooting video (and pictures, by the way) using my not-so-smartphone. It’s not HD, it’s not the best user interface, but it’s always there. And so I get to capture a lot of great moments, which I wouldn’t if I was only using a “camera”.
Cisco, just like other camera manufactures, are adding more features to the devices. Flip Share, for instance, is a really great concept. But with all due respect, it’s not enough in the fierce competition against the iPhone4 and its likes.
And What About Video Calling?
Which brings me to my favorite topic – video conferencing. The recent “tablet wars” on one hand and the “mobile wars” on the other raise an interesting question regarding which device we’ll be using for video calling. And while in the office it makes perfect sense to avoid a mobile device or tablet, when you’re out of the office it’s an interesting debate – the multi-functional device (iPhone4 or iPad, for instance) or the single-function device (like the Cius or Flare).
Fring video calling on an Android phone. Source: Fring.
Based on the above examples, I would bet my money on the multi-functional devices. But if history (and Steve Jobs) has told us something, is that you should never make predictions, especially not about the future.