Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

Flip Video: Can it help turn the tech industry on its ear?

By Ian Johnson, CBCnews.ca.

Pocket video camera maker Pure Digital Technologies launched its latest Flip MinoHD and UltraHD models in Canada today, cameras the size of a chocolate bar that will shoot one to two hours (respectively) of 720p high-definition video. To me it's not the hardware that's the most interesting story here, though – it's how this small company out of San Francisco has been building and marketing consumer electronics.

The company's pint-sized point-and-shoot video cameras have been eating into the market share of traditional video camera makers, with well over 2 million of them selling in two years. And while they're popular with the stereotypical techies who have to have the latest gear, most are being bought by "average" consumers, from hockey moms to vacationing families.

I spoke recently to Scott Kabat, director of marketing for Pure Digital Technologies, about the mainstream appeal of the company's cameras. He didn't launch into the typical tech marketing spiel about "paradigm-shifting technology" or "market-leading platforms." He said flatly that Pure Digital's success is based simply on, well, simplicity. The company's design focus is only partly on the workings of the hardware – most of its efforts go into making the software and supporting services easy to use.

Keeping things simple sounds easy and it's something just about every tech company pays lip service to, yet few actually pull it off. They often start with good intentions, but the products end up being so complicated that most of their features are useless, like a VCR clock that's always blinking 12:00 because it's too much of a hassle to set.

With a Flip, press a button and point the camera, and you're recording. Plug the camera into a USB port on a PC or Mac (at home, at work or at grandma's place), and it launches built-in software that lets you view videos and do basic edits. No messing around with discs or downloading drivers, figuring out codecs or installing permanent software. The dead-simple menu screen isn't flashy, but it offers all the things most people will want to do with video clips – make basic edits, export videos to the computer's hard drive or burn them to a disc, display them on a website, e-mail them to friends or post them on various social networking sites.

Flip cameras aren't necessarily right for everyone, and there's definitely room for improvement when it comes to things like ergonomics and zooming ability. But the lesson here for the consumer electronics industry is that these gadgets are selling mainly because extra effort has gone into making them simple and convenient, and you won't need a manual to figure them out.

Pure Digital's give-em-what-they-want approach is apparent in its marketing, too. The company lets people customize some of its models with graphics when they place an online order, at no extra charge. You can create your own graphical design through the company's website, or use designs uploaded by others – and the company pays those people a small royalty fee each time their graphic is used.

"We look at this as an investment in building the brand," Kabat said. "I can't give you a specific number, but I can tell you that the vast majority of the cameras we sell now are personalized."

"I believe that technology is enabling self-expression in ways that weren't possible before," he added. "Whether it's your Facebook profile or putting your videos online or personalizing the things you buy - I mean, you can personalize your shoes and your handbags now - I don't think that's going away."

Pure Digital Technologies was acquired this month by networking behemoth Cisco in a half-billion-dollar deal and is now part of Cisco's Consumer Business Group. Cisco has generally been successful at absorbing companies without killing the qualities that made them worth buying in the first place, and if it can do that here, maybe Cisco's expansive product line will in turn absorb some of Pure Digital's design philosophy. And then maybe other tech heavyweights will take notice.

In an industry that has gotten far too used to telling people what they should have rather than really listening to what they want, that would probably be a good thing.

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

This discussion is now Open. Submit your Comment.

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

Post a Comment

Disclaimer:

Note: By submitting your comments you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that due to the volume of e-mails we receive, not all comments will be published, and those that are published will not be edited. But all will be carefully read, considered and appreciated.

Note: Due to volume there will be a delay before your comment is processed. Your comment will go through even if you leave this page immediately afterwards.

Privacy Policy | Submissions Policy

Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

World »

Catalan independence leaders jailed in Spain video
Spain moved closer on Monday to imposing direct rule over Catalonia to thwart its independence push as Madrid's High Court signalled a hardening line by jailing the leaders of two of the largest separatist organizations.
Dozens still missing as Somalia truck bombing death toll surpasses 300 video
The death toll from a truck bombing in Somalia's capital — the deadliest single attack in the country's history — has surpassed 300 and the government says it's expected to rise further.
Russian man reveals he's a victim of Chechnya's 'gay purge'
A 30-year-old Russian man has identified himself as one of the victims of Chechnya’s so-called "gay purge,” an event global human rights groups have condemned as a Nazi-like effort to rid the region of homosexuals.
more »

Canada »

Kent calls on ethics commissioner to investigate Morneau over corporation that holds French villa video
Finance Minister Bill Morneau is facing a call for an investigation into his failure for two years to disclose one of his private corporations to Canada's ethics watchdog.
Calgary voters head to polls in tight mayoral race
Amid an unexpectedly tight mayoral race, a slew of open council seats and a municipal campaign that has struggled to stay above the muck, Calgary voters head to the polls today to elect civic leaders.
4 surprising things about the Ontario government's finances
CBC News has uncovered some revealing trends in Ontario government revenues that provide significant insights into the provincial economy.
more »

Politics »

NYC terror case records unsealed after Canadian man's plea for help from Omar Khadr's lawyer
Court records for the case of a 19-year-old Canadian man who pleaded guilty to terrorism charges were unsealed after he asked a judge, in a handwritten letter, to fire his lawyer and appoint the former counsel for Omar Khadr.
U.S. makes 'aggressive' demands to access Canadian dairy market, wants end to supply management
The United States is asking Canada to open up its protected dairy market and wants the system of supply management that protects Canada's industry terminated within a decade.
Liberals pledge to cut small business tax rate to 9% amid backlash over proposed tax reforms video
Ottawa announced its plans today to cut the small business tax rate from 10.5 per cent to nine per cent by 2019, as it attempts to quell a backlash to proposed tax reforms that have stung the Trudeau government.
more »

Health »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

Women identify as assault, harassment victims using #metoo hashtag
Thousands of women are responding to actress Alyssa Milano's call to share #metoo on social media to raise awareness of sexual harassment and assault following the recent revelation of decades of alleged sexual misconduct by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
WWE signs first woman wrestler from Arab world in global push
World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. signed its first female performer from the Arab world on Sunday, smashing cultural taboos as the U.S.-based pageant seeks to piledrive its way into lucrative foreign markets.
Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner engaged to DNCE's Joe Jonas
DNCE singer Joe Jonas is engaged to Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner. Turner and Jonas shared the same photo on Instagram on Sunday of her hand sporting a diamond ring and resting on top of his.
more »

Technology & Science »

Astronomers see source of gravitational waves for 1st time
A never-before-seen explosion from the merger of two dense astral bodies known as neutron stars has been viewed with telescopes for the first time.
Flaw lets hackers read data over secure Wi-Fi
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security warns of cyber risks associated with a widely used system for securing Wi-Fi communications after Belgian researchers discovered a flaw that could allow hackers to read information thought to be encrypted, or infect websites with malware.
Blog Hydrothermal vents found on Mars raise hope in search for life
​Evidence of ancient hydrothermal vents, similar to those found in the depths of the Earth's oceans have been spotted on the surface of Mars. Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald explores what that means for the search for life.
more »

Money »

Live Europe's Airbus to buy majority stake in Bombardier CSeries program video
Bombardier Inc. has announced it will partner with Netherlands-based aerospace giant Airbus on its CSeries program.
Securities regulator sets out rules for Canadian marijuana stocks with U.S. interests
The Canadian Securities Administrators set out "specific disclosure expectations" for marijuana industry firms with investments in the U.S., offering much-anticipated clarity for companies that operate on both sides of the border.
Liberals pledge to cut small business tax rate to 9% amid backlash over proposed tax reforms video
Ottawa announced its plans today to cut the small business tax rate from 10.5 per cent to nine per cent by 2019, as it attempts to quell a backlash to proposed tax reforms that have stung the Trudeau government.
more »

Consumer Life »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Stagnant offence has Canucks searching for answers video
The Canucks were just 2-for-23 with the man advantage during a four-game homestand to open the NHL schedule, including an ugly 0-for-7 performance in Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames.
Apologies to Michael Jordan, but the NBA's super team phenomenon isn't going away video
Michael Jordan says NBA fans can expect to see "one or two teams that are going to be great, and another 28 teams that are going to be garbage" this season. But as for the talent gap and formation of super teams, former Toronto Raptors general manager Glen Grunwald explains why this isn't a new phenomenon or one that's likely to change.
Erik Karlsson to make season debut for Ottawa Senators Tuesday
The Ottawa Senators just sliced through western Canada. Now their superstar captain is coming back after going under the knife in the offseason.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »