Ross Rubin (@rossrubin) contributes Switched On, a column about consumer technology.
As it often does at its product introductions, Apple took a subtle swipe at the Flip camcorder when it introduced the video camera-equipped iPod nano this fall. The sales volumes of the iPod nano even caused some to proclaim Apple's revision of the most popular iPod to be a Flip-killer. The inexpensive Flip camcorder has long proven tenacious, however, fending off competition from major brands such as Sony and Kodak, as well as value players like Aiptek and DXG -- not to mention nearly every digital camera and cellphone that can shoot video. Besides, the iPod nano has outsold the Flip camcorder many times over; why would Apple care about such incremental competition?
One answer is that the developers of the Flip camcorder (now the Pure Digital division of Cisco) aren't just hawking a cheap digital geegaw. Even before Pure Digital sold its first "disposable" camcorder, the company understood ecosystems. Back then, that involved installing processing equipment at retailers such as CVS, as the company's business model relied on getting consumers to develop prints and create DVDs in stores. Since those days, the utilitarian application it originally shipped for transferring videos to PCs has given way to FlipShare , which is clearly designed to be the equivalent of iTunes for video. And more recently, it introduced Flipshare.com to provide its own spin on organizing and sharing videos online, including to devices beyond the PC.