Monday, April 25, 2011

I Am Still Scratching My Head...

What do you do if you have a consumer electronics product that is universally considered to be the best in its category? It is a product that is selling exceptionally well and has some new and innovative improvements ready to be announced. Most companies, especially in these less than robust economic times, would be happy and continue to take the cash from the brisk sales to the bank. If you are Cisco, the giant computer networking products company, you discontinue the product line. That’s right; Cisco announced that the Flip video camera will no longer be manufactured.

If you are a regular follower of my column you know that from the time the Flip was released a few years ago I have been a big cheerleader for the simplicity and utility of this cigarette pack sized video camera. After reviewing the statements from the Cisco suits, I remain convinced that for the vast majority of consumers, the Flip is still the best small video camera available, albeit only for a few more months.

There have been several competitors surface in this product category, but all of them seem to fail to understand why the Flip was such a great product. Companies like Kodak, Sony, Toshiba and others retained Flip’s small size but their engineers and designers could not resist adding more features. While the Flip essentially has one button, the competitors added other features that get in the way of the point and shoot simplicity of the Flip.

Cisco, in the announcement of the cancellation of the Flip, related that it was no longer a viable product because mobile phones had added video recording capability. That may be true but a simple test proved to me that they were misinformed about the practicality of using phones to capture spur of the moment events.

I have a smart phone that has video recording capability. If I want to make a video recording I have to go through six steps, all of them embedded in on-screen menus before I am actually recording. With the Flip there are two steps. I turn it on and press the red button.

Some would accuse me of being a modern day Luddite but I am not a big supporter of the Swiss Army knife approach to all things electronic. Adding features adds complexity and often gets in the way of ease of use. In a car you should not need to look at an on- screen menu to turn on the windshield wipers or heater. The remote control for your TV should not have more buttons that the space shuttle. Guess I am showing my age.

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Anonymous MikeD said...

I'm scratching with you, Jack. Sometimes simpler is better.

2:04 PM  

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