Cisco's Flip Flop
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Another important question: Given CEO John Chambers' strategy memo earlier this month, which products will Cisco kill next?
The Flip isn't Cisco's only consumer entry. It owns Linksys (home networking), Umi (home videoconferencing), and Scientific Atlanta (set-top boxes). Gartner's Dulaney and other industry watchers I spoke with think those businesses are on the block, too. Meantime, Cisco's Cius tablet and Quad social networking platform are obscure entries in overcrowded markets.
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"Linksys we're keeping," insists Cisco's Tillman. "Umi will be changing. We're making it part of our telepresence strategy."
Rob Maxwell, one of BYTE's senior contributors and lead incident handler for the University of Maryland, College Park, says he liked the Flip because it was cheaper than flash-based or disk-based cameras from the major camera makers, and was more stable and of higher quality than his Droid 2 camera phone. "The lesson here is one we've seen repeatedly over the years: Big tech companies that become commoditized flail about buying smaller companies based on the current hot trend, regardless of how relevant that product is to their core competency," Maxwell says. "It seldom ends well. Cisco does what they do [infrastructure] as well as anyone, and by focusing on that they remain a safe and innovative networking manufacturer. Not flashy, but reliable and solid."
Another senior BYTE contributor, Jermemy Lesniak, says his company, Vermont Computing, supports some schools where Flips are in use. He says "the only lesson I learned was that sometimes a big company has absolutely no idea what goes on in the trenches."
"The people I supported with Flip cameras loved them," Lesniak says. "They were easy to shoot, fairly durable, and didn't require capturing the video back off a tape. The price made them nearly disposable. If there was one consumer product that Cisco owned that was beloved, it was the Flip."
For BYTE.com, launching this summer, I'm Gina Smith. Meantime, what do you think? Leave a comment below or email me through the link at www.byte.com.
Gina Smith is the editor of BYTE, due to relaunch this summer. Covering tech since 1988, she also is a New York Times bestselling author and frequent public speaker. Follow Gina on Twitter @GINASMITH888.