One of the stories in today’s business papers is especially poignant to Flip the Media. Just over two years after it acquired pocket-size Flip video camera from manufacturer Pure Digital Technologies, Cisco Systems is shutting down a number of its consumer businesses. Sadly, one of the casualties is the little camera that was the inspiration for the Flip the Media name.
Begun as a blog for students to share lessons learned in a Winter 2008 MCDM video class, FTM continued on after the class ended and evolved into the news journal you are reading now. Living on Internet time, Flip the Media has gone through several iterations in the past three years and will continue to change just as the digital world around us changes.
Is there a lesson to be learned from the fate of the Flip camera? What does the end of something that showed quality video could be made with something that fit in the palm of your hand tell us? Drawing grandiose conclusions from Cisco’s action might be premature. Yet, for those of us who don’t sit in boardrooms or study corporate balance sheets, the speed (two years!) with which the company went from spending $600 million to buy the technology to dropping it like hot potato is startling.
On the other hand, once quality video cameras became standard fare on Apple and Android cellphones, the Flip became redundant to most of its’ target market. That moment coincided exactly with Cisco buying PDT.
Perhaps the lesson is this: If you always chase after the latest thing, you’ll spend all your time chasing. In a blog post published (perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not) at the close of this year’s South by Southwest Interactive, digital pundit Seth Godin makes the argument for not focusing on the next big thing. Godin instead encourages us to use established technologies to do real work–even when those technologies have been declared “dead” by what he calls the “drive-by technorati.”
“Dead technology” is a different concept for hardware than it is for software. When Cisco stops production of the Flip, it will be dead in a way that the Web will never be dead. This despite Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff’s incendiary front-cover obituary that Wired published last year. But the lesson is the same: By trying to be au courant, Cisco ended up with nothing. In a drive-by purchase, Cisco –perhaps blinded by the shininess of a disruptive product–bought something with no long-term future.
As a noun, the Flip may be no more. As a verb, we can all continue to “Flip the Media” by ferreting out the real value of technologies and applying those technologies to the work we do. There are lots of shiny objects out there. What the world needs more of are people with the ability to distinguish the shine from a gold nugget from that of a rock wrapped in aluminum foil.