Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Video: After Cisco Sacrifices His Baby to the Gods of Wall Street, Flip Founder Jon Kaplan Speaks!

Right after BoomTown heard the sad news this morning that Cisco was jettisoning its Flip digital video camera division–part of a transparent effort to assure Wall Street that it was no longer serious about its wacky foray into the consumer market–I lobbed in a call to its founder Jonathan Kaplan to get him on video talking about the loss.

The Flip, of course, has been my go-to tool to harass and annoy Silicon Valley moguls, since it appeared on the scene many years ago. The technique for the simple device was to essentially stick it up someone’s nose until they cried “Uncle!” and told me what I wanted to know.

It’s not entirely clear why Cisco didn’t make more of an effort to sell Flip–I got three calls from big consumer Internet and electronics companies that would have been logical buyers this morning alone, all of whom said they would have seriously considered purchasing the iconic brand. It remains the top-selling camcorder in the U.S., with 21.6 percent of the market.

Cisco bought the start-up behind Flip, Pure Digital, in March of 2009 for $590 million in stock, and the product has sold many millions of units in its short and cruelly ended life.

The first commercially-branded Flips were, in fact, introduced at the third D: All Things Digital conference in 2005 by Kaplan, and he first talked with Cisco CEO John Chambers about selling the innovative Flip at D4 in 2008.

While Wall Street has been worried about the impact of smartphones, especially the iPhone, on Flip’s business–helped in part by Apple CEO Steve Jobs making that point in the photo here at a music event in the fall of 2009 (after which, Cisco defended Flip on Twitter)–it still boggles the mind why Cisco could not have found a new home for it, rather than lopping off all those jobs.

Flip has reportedly been profitable on a standalone basis, several sources said, although probably not when you glom all those shared Cisco corporate costs on top of its puny shoulders.

Flip’s axing, in fact, is clearly a lame attempt to get serious by Cisco–whose shares have been suffering of late–in order to assuage investors that it was focusing on its core business of networking after a series of consumer-facing experiments. While these consumer efforts were but a drop in the giant Cisco revenue bucket, killing them gets lot of ink.

Expect more such “We’re back!” announcements from Chambers and Cisco in the coming months, as it is part of the classic CEO Playbook 101.

Kaplan remained mum on all that in our chat in the Noe Valley Starbucks, which you can see below, along with my favorite Flip moment, where I got all up into Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s business. I also added two other videos I did when my various Flip cameras met new versions in 2008 and in 2010.

Big single tear–it’s just not the same with an iPhone:


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald