Single use products are always living a dangerous life. They are precariously placed at the bottom of the food chain risking being devoured by stronger participants in the ecosystem that can do more – and better – than that one thing that single use products do. Actually, it is the more that counts first and the better always follows – we will keep this hypothesis for a later post
Cisco, the owners of Flip cameras had bought the asset paying $590 million in 2009. Yesterday, they shut down the product. The act has attracted emotions ranging from sadness of parting (Kara Swisher of All Things D did a Zuckerberg interview with it once) to sagaciousness of inevitability (Felix Salmon said it wasn’t Cisco that killed Flip. It was Apple). The death of Flip brings to the forefront the narrow focus versus cast-the-net-wider approach of managing products.
The narrow approach is great so long as it fulfills a well defined market/human need in the most optimal manner (take products like bicycles, television sets etc.). Adjacencies – what strategists define as the immediate user-need neighborhood to existing propositions – are few in these cases (yes, one could attach a motor to the bicycle but that serves a totally different need where the physical exercise is taken out). Flip had not only multiple adjacencies but strong players in those adjacencies. And to Flip’s discredit, they did not do much to either explore those adjacencies or build strong ecosystems in the portable-movie-making device business. Anyone that could slap HD recording, AV signal out to a mobile-phone like device could eat Flip’s lunch. And they did (Felix is correct – i-phone killed Flip much before Cisco did).
Exploring and exploiting adjacencies should be a never ending process for a product strategist (ask your users the question – “what do you do three minutes before you start using our product and three minutes after you are done”). Adjacencies also consider ecosystems. People who used Flip were the ones that valued “immediate” over “control over filming”. What do people who prefer “immediate” generally do with their output? They mostly would want to circulate it within their networks, get it on their blogs, send to the newsroom and so on (silently add the word “immediate” before each comma in the last sentence and you get what I mean). Why was it that Flip never considered allowing these users to do that without having to transfer the media to another device first? And once wireless delivery was possible, how much time would have taken someone to realize that video calling was just a step away?
Cry not for Flip if you can. If you own a Flip (I do), keep it on your desk. Look at it each time you are thinking about product and business strategy