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Posted by James McQuivey on September 10, 2009
You've got to be hating life if you're a videocamera maker like Sony or Kodak and you've just been bested yet again. First, it was the immensely successful Flip video cameras that sold more than 2 million devices without a significant brand name simply because the camera was so darn easy to use. (
Personal anecdote, I recently spent a day at a major CE maker with a group of industry analysts -- they let us try their new Flip camera competitor and one of the smartest guys in the room couldn't figure out how to turn it on. Said a nearby analyst: "Hmmm, no wonder Flip beat them to this market.")
Now the game just got more complicated because Apple has decided to add video camera capability not to the iPod Touch line, but to its Nano iPods. Pause for reverential awe. This was a brilliant move. (see Wired's take on it here).
Not only because it hits Flip in a sensitive spot -- right in the high school and college market where Flip was such a hit -- but because it further disrupts the videocamera market, opening it to more innovation and rapid change. You no longer have the three tiers of videocameras (disc or tape storage, digital decent, and then your lousy phone camera), instead, you have a fourth competitor. A personal media device that is now capable of actual personal media. Oh, and did I mention it's made by Apple? Right, just checking.
This puts Apple in an important place it hasn't occupied until now: it makes Apple software the potential hub for personal media, something that is poised to explode in the next 2-3 years. You see, even Flip's success has not guaranteed that people use Flip software to manage the videos they capture. But Apple's iTunes has always been the glue that makes Apple's ecosystem work. And now it just acquired superadhesive properties.
I'm not predicting the end of Flip just yet -- in the hands of Cisco, Flip may stay relevant to consumers by emphasizing the simpler interface or the higher quality of its HD line. Or it could move into the B2B world where Cisco's more comfortable. But I am suggesting that the days of standalone videocameras are waning. Other than aspiring moviemakers, who should ever buy a standalone camcorder again? The next big move should come from all the phone makers who will need to take advantage of persistent wireless connectivity to make sharing via phone easier than sharing via iTunes.
What do you think. Do you want one? How critical is adding personal video to iTunes to Apple's future? Does it glue Apple's offerings together in a way it couldn't previously, even leading (he adds, rather obscurely) to more Final Cut Pro users in the future?