Paul asked me to write about the Flip Camera. And as his last article stated, I have been a big fan of the Flip Camera for a very long time now. Here I present my case for why I believe the Flip Camera (and the type of product it represents) is more than a blip on the radar.
Q: How is the Flip camera "good enough" to cause unexpected market disruption?
The first thing I look at is what you CAN'T do with a device. If the list is long or "critical" enough, the odds are that the rest of the industry won't see it as a competitor and will be blind to the disruption that it represents.
- You can't plug in a professional external microphone
- You can't change the aperture or adjust the levels in any way (video or audio)
- The zoom is too feeble to enable any filming from any real distance. You basically have to be in their face
- You can't add in new lenses or later expand the camera
- You can't take "professional" quality footage with it
Looking at the list above, I realize why so many dismissed the camera. But then I think of YouTube. Watched anything on there lately? Most of the videos on there are shot with a WebCam that has WORSE quality, no controls and mediocre audio at best. Hmmm.
Let's look at what this device CAN do.
- The pricepoint has driven the entire market lower ($135).
- Size is critical. It fits in a pocket or a purse and doesn't add much weight. You can ALWAYS have it on hand (not quite as easy as if it was on your cellphone)
- Ease of use is critical. Turn it on and you are ready to record in less than 2 seconds. Just press one button and the same button to stop.
- Quality is NOT critical, but must be "good enough" and I believe the Flip is just that. Good enough. Limited zoom and full frame rate, 640 by 480 video with decent audio.
- The software that comes with the camera is anything but the greatest editor. But the fact that you can edit clips together and upload right to YouTube is quite neat for many users.
Q: Where is the Flip driving new innovation and creating new value/opportunities?
More and more cameras record to a chip nowadays. And just about every manufacturer is working to make getting the photos or footage into your computer easier. Cables are generally included with the camera. Some cameras offer accessories for you to remove the chip, plug it into a device and then plug the device into your USB port.
Flick a switch on the Flip and the USB connector emerges. You plug the camera directly into your computer. Done.
But this is not the innovation I want to speak of. This is a cool feature, but the real innovation is that the Flip Camera comes with the software to edit your videos embedded on the camera itself. There's no CD to install. You connect the camera and everything you need is on it. You launch the application off the camera.
What the Flip does represent is a rather significant potential to revolutionize how we think about products in the electronics category - (I took a stab at this on my blog). To date, electronic products have been either a piece of software or a piece of hardware. Many pieces of hardware came with software or drivers to enable us to interact with them, but the feeling was that we were purchasing the hardware and the software was often not a required component.
The Flip offers a glimpse of a future where software is seen to be an integral part of a device because it is fully contained within the product. I can easily see a future where we start interacting with products and not the other way around. The day when our PC's capabilities are actually ENHANCED by owning a piece of electronics. My new Bravia Entertainment Platinum TV now allows me to access live streams of new shows a day early off any computer in my house. Or the fact that I bought a new scanner means I have access to enhanced faxing and photo editing from any machine on my network, without having to install any software. The software just appears because the purchased device is on my network. Electronic devices become a gateway into enhanced functionality that is related to the device but operable on other platforms and tasks.
...over to you, Paul...