The Flip Video Ultra had humble beginnings. Back in 2005, Pure Digital teamed up with CVS to release its One-Time-Use Camcorder, which cost $30 and could capture 20 minutes of video. Transferring those precious moments to DVD would run you another $13. After a bit of success, the company moved on to more eco-friendly, non-disposable units. And then, in 2007, it rebranded the line as Flip Video. Like its predecessors, it was meant to be held upright when shooting video and incorporated intuitive controls. The design was a bit blocky, but it was the first to include a flip-out USB connector, making it easy to connect to computers without any cables. The Flip Video also came preloaded with FlipShare software, letting users plug, play, edit and share to sites like YouTube from any PC with a USB port.
The first Flip Video had only been on the market for a few months when Pure Digital replaced it with the next-gen Flip Video Ultra. The revision specifically addressed many of the original's design issues. Pure Digital shaved some weight off the device and released it in an array of colors including black, pink and orange. With this new Flip, users could capture and save up to 60 minutes of VGA-quality (640 x 480) video on the 2GB model -- it even boasted better low-light performance. Interacting with the device was a piece of cake using its 1.5-inch color display and buttons for play, record, delete, zoom and screen navigation. It also ran on two AA batteries, making it easy to re-up, rather than wait hours for batteries to recharge.
Because sales of the device were going so well in 2008, analysts at NPD listed the Flip Video Ultra as the top-selling camcorder in June of that year. It even managed to beat out devices from well-known brands like Sony, JVC and Panasonic. Soon, though, those same heavyweights were copying the Flip's success with budget-priced camcorders of their own. Cisco, the well-known enterprise hardware outfit, seized on Pure Digital's rise in the market and acquired the company in 2009. Unfortunately, the lifespan of the Flip Video line would prove to be short-lived and smartphones, with their ever-improving video capabilities, quickly replaced the single-use tech. By 2011, the market for these niche video devices began to completely dry up leading Cisco to altogether shutter the Flip camera division.
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