Cisco’s recent surprise move to shut down its Flip camcorder business—and axe 550 employees—has another casualty: the FlipLive, an un-announced new camcorder from Flip that would have streamed live video to the Web via Wi-Fi. And, according to reports, Cisco pulled the plug on Flip just before the FlipLive was set to launch.
Reports had been circulating since mid-2010 about a forthcoming camcorder from Flip that would stream live video via Wi-Fi: initial reports had the company preparing to take on Apple’s FaceTime technology for person-to-person video conferencing, but more recent rumors had the camera centering on social networking technology. All users would have to do is get in range of a Wi-Fi hotspot, and set up a live stream. Users would get a URL (presumably from Cisco’s cloud-based services) that they could post to Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networking service they liked: anyone following the link would be able to see the FlipLive’s video broadcast…well, live. (Presumably, users who followed the link after a user was done broadcasting could get an archived version of the video, although no details of a FlipLive service plan have been released). The idea could have been a boon for everything from re-inventing the baby monitor to covering real-time news events to simply making a kind of video party line: after all, once the video was in the cloud, there was no reason broadcasts had to be one-to-one. Any number of people could turn in.
According to the New York Times’ David Pogue, the FlipLive was due to be announced April 13—one day after Cisco announced it was killing off the Flip division.
The FlipLive would seem to be an instantiation of every reason Cisco said it acquired Pure Digital a little over two years ago: leverage Cisco video technologies and services, drive demand for bandwidth-intensive consumer video services, and become a player in the online video marketplace. Unfortunately, the death of the FlipLive—and the infrastructure that would have been required to back it up—would seem to put an end to Cisco’s efforts to get into the consumer video space. But let’s remember: 550 people and writing off a $590 million acquisition is comparatively small potatoes to a company like Cisco: six months after acquiring Pure Digital, they plunked down a cool $3 billion for video conferencing outfit Tandberg.