Flip is Dead. MP3 Players, Point & Shoot Cameras Next?

If you are a tech news follower, you know that Cisco has kill its Flip video camera business, costing 550 employees their jobs in the process. The sudden decision by Cisco is not surprising. A dedicated point and shoot video camera has almost no place in today’s market, filled with smartphones capable of HD recording. Flip’s death was inevitable whether or not Cisco made the decision. It was just a question of how soon.

What we can conclude in Flip’s story is this: As soon as a single-purpose gadget’s ability is matched by smartphones, the said gadget will have hard time keeping its head above water.

And this brings up another question—are MP3 players like the iPod next in line? Will point-and-shoot cameras suffer the same fate?

MP3 Players
iPod NanoIn the pre-iPhone era, MP3 players were a real hit. There were something every cool kid had. When the iPhone came along, accompanied by other so-called “iPhone killers“, the tide changed.

According to the chart below, iPod saw its peak sales in 2008, a year after the iPhone was launched. Subsequent years show slight declines. Mind you though, the numbers include the sales of the iPod touch, launched months after the iPhone.

iPod Sales Chart - 2002 to 2011 first quarter

The decline is more apparent if the iPod Touch is not taken into account. With its ability to do almost anything the iPhone does (except for calling of course), the Touch is hardly a dedicated MP3 player, more like a all-round entertainment device.

The way people listen to music has also changed. Internet radios like Pandora, Last.fm and Grooveshark can now be conveniently accessed on smartphones with 3G or 4G connections.

Very few people like the idea of plugging their portable players into the PC just to sync newly downloaded songs. Cloud streaming services like the newly launched Amazon Cloud Player and rumored Google music service would be perfect for such users.

And guess what? A constant Internet connection is required to enjoy these services without interruption. That is exactly what smartphones are capable of, and not the conventional MP3 players.

Steve Jobs saw all this coming. Cult of Mac reported that Apple is working hard to bring wireless sync to iPods.

That will probably keep iPods selling a little longer, but no way is it gonna reverse the declining trend of MP3 player sales.

Point-and-shoot Cameras
The best camera is the one that’s with you. The one that you can reach for in your pocket and shoot that special moment in just seconds. These moments are normally unforeseeable. With your point-and-shoot at home, the next best choice is nothing other than whipping out your smartphone.

Pentax Optio V20Capturing the moment is one thing. Sharing the moment is another. With a point-and-shoot, it’s frustratingly tedious and slow to get the the photos online. First, either plug the camera into a PC or use a card reader. Then copy the photo over, and finally, upload.

Smartphones make things way easier. It’s just a tap or two away before your newly captured photo gets uploaded and shared on social networks.

In a smartphone, the camera will continue to innovate itself as app developers find new ways to make photography and sharing more fun. Instagram is a good example. The newly launched Postagram app even lets you order print copies of your Instagram photos and send them to anyone in the world. Everything happens within the smartphone itself.

A point-and-shoot camera, on the other hand, will remain what it is from the day you buy it. It definitely will not innovate itself like a smartphone.

The last remaining reason for point-and-shoot camera buyers to justify their purchase is the superior photo quality. No doubt, point-and-shoot can take way better photos than a smartphone. Otherwise the entire industry would cease to exist.

But that is changing, albeit slowly. Photos captured using the Nokia N8 are comparable to those of point-and-shoot cameras. It is only a matter of time before other smartphone manufacturers figure out how to sneak a powerful lens into their device while keeping it slim.

For most casual users, the convenience of not having to carry two devices and not needing to undergo the photo transferring process far outweighs the superior photo quality offered by point-and-shoots.

This is evident on Flickr’s top 5 cameras list, where not a single point-and-shoot camera can be found. The iPhone 4 holds spot number 2, while the other 4 cameras are all DSLRs, the kind people who really cares about photo quality should get.

Most Popular Cameras in the Flickr Community

Single-purpose gadgets, watch your back!
MP3 players and point-and-shoot cameras are not the only two gadgets that are moving toward obsolescence. Any other single-purpose gadget is at risk of being cannibalized by multipurpose gadgets that can replace their functionality.

That is not limited to smartphones, but also tablets, thanks to Apple.

E-book readers are at risk. Portable gaming consoles are at risk. Even digital voice recorders are at risk (yes, there are people still using them).

What other gadgets do you think will be obsolete in coming years?

5 Responses to “Flip is Dead. MP3 Players, Point & Shoot Cameras Next?”

  1. You seem to be selling medocrity. Telling us what we want. This is dangerous as those few believe that what you say about us the many is true. This is good for ‘big’ businesss and lousy for the consumer.

    Some of us do not like single devices that requires contracts and 3rd parties to be integrated in our lives. We like ease and integrated devices that do the level of performance we want for our particular interest. Some of us like choice and not being tethered.

    Putting all utilities in single uses has drawbacks. It limits. I don’t want to read from a 4 inch or smaller screen. I don’t want a large device to listen to music. I want better quality resolution from my camera. Ok, some quick picks for day to day are ok from a phone, but sometimes, I want photography. I don’t want to carry all this on my phone and I want my phone to work when I am on the phone.

    Easy integration of devices is already available and easy. The issues is that competitors work against each other sabotaging their competitors rather than focusing on the best of the best. In the short run, good for business. In the longer run, few companies, lost jobs, not the best technology, medocrity when compared to the excellence available.

    Me, I prefer choice and quality. This is suppose to be a consumer driven market. It is not. It is driven by opionated self appointed experts who believe their own perspective; who believe that they know what ‘most’ of the people want. In truth, who many of the 300 million people in this country do you know? Do you know 3 million people? That is only 1%.

  2. I found the article thought provoking and I encourage the writer to continue. Regarding the previous post about “little people”; I quickly noticed several grammatical errors and I am guessing that English is probably not Vincent’s first language. I find greater fault with Dice than with Vincent. Even native speakers, myself included, make grammatical mistakes. The editors should be proof reading these articles. Come on Dice, let’s pay attention here.

  3. John Mereness

    Yes, flip is dead – and to some degree it is a shame as the advantage to flip is that I do not have to look at that big scratch on the screen (followed by the crack that drives you crazy).