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Cisco Ditches Flip and $590 Million 121

darthcamaro writes "Remember the Flip? When Pure Digital Technology first came out with the device it was one of the hottest gadgets, providing users with an ultra-portable camcorder. Then Cisco came along and bought the Flip for $590 million in 2009. Now less than two years later, Cisco is throwing the money, 550 employees and the Flip out the door." Wired has an analysis of why Flip floundered. I hope this means I can find a AA-powered Flip UltraHD for $50 in a clearance bin.
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Cisco Ditches Flip and $590 Million

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @07:53PM (#35801640)

    Flips were durable as hell. I gave one to my 10 year son a one and over the years it has twice spent 1+ weeks in the yard in rain and snow and both times it started right up no problem. Not bad and absolutely perfect for a kid into making movies.

  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @07:57PM (#35801680)
    They started as Pure Digital [], a company that made a solid-state battery-operated "disposable" camera (20 minutes, 128 MB flash), and camcorder, both of which were eventually hacked. The business model was that you'd pay CVS $20-30 for the camera, fill it with 20 minutes of video, and return it for "processing", where CVS would use a device with a proprietary USB connector and software that knew what key to use to handshake to the device to extract the video, burn it to CD for you, wipe the camera, and put it back on the shelf. (much like a "disposable" film camera.)

    The company was understandably miffed about having people going into their local drugstore and buying what would have been a $50-100 gadget for $30. Pretty neat devices. Very lightweight, and rugged as hell. At $30, perfect for strapping onto balloons, kites, and model rockets.

    Miffed [] as they were about the disruption of the business model, they actually didn't get overly litigious about it. They didn't have much of a legal leg to stand on, so they basically asked really really nicely for people to stop, while updating their single-use devices to be a little harder to hack. (It took the community a couple of years to crack the newer firmware, and by that time, the devices, even at $30, were obsolescent.)

    The "reusable video camcorder that offers 2-3 times the quality, a zoom lens, and 30 minutes of storage" version of the single-use device became the series known as the Flip. The Flip was an unencumbered version of the grocery store disposable units, featuring more storage and higher resolution, and even at retail prices, if you needed something rugged, lightweight, cheap to power, and still cheap enough that it's not the end of the world if the rocket gets stuck in a tree or your RC aircraft faceplants into the dirt, it was still pretty good value for the money.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:25PM (#35801978)

    I almost got my wife a Flip this past Christmas as a more convenient way to take videos of our 2yr old without having to haul around a full fledged camcorder. I ended up getting her the Kodak Playsport instead. It was less expensive (think I paid about $120), it is waterproof (major plus since little ones have a tendency to spill things), and the reviews were better. The wife loves it, and the 1080p videos are MUCH, MUCH better than what either of our phones can do (even on the highest setting). The only negative is sharing the videos. While they play just great on the device (connected to our TV over HDMI), most PCs struggle with the video due to the high resolution. I have convert the videos to lower resolution if we want to share them with family/friends.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:28PM (#35802010)

    does the camera in this phone [] look familiar?

    The flip camera is used in their unified IP phones. They didn't buy it to keep it going as standalone camera.

  • by BillX ( 307153 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @11:37PM (#35803462) Homepage

    It's worse than that []... the MBAs must have paid the engineers peanuts and lit a blowtorch under their asses to ship it, because the "security" on these was laughable (the one thing they had going for them was a Funny Plug(tm) that wouldn't fit a standard USB cable); it took several revisions before the software security measures presented so much as a speed bump. How do I hack thee? Let me recount thy ways...

    1) The camcorders used a 128 BYTE(!) challenge/response system to unlock the device over USB. But the first-gen units used the SAME keypair for every device! So extract the key from one, unlock them all.

    2) The key could be extracted by desoldering and reading the Flash chip, or... just asking the device nicely! The challenge key and expected response were stored consecutively in memory; you would request the challenge key in 4-byte(?) chunks, and after the 32nd chunk, respond with 32 chunks of response key. But if you instead just kept requesting chunks after the 32nd, it would GIVE you the response key.

    3) Eventually they fixed this. But there was still a backdoor / "default" key, leading to the very popular "battery drop" method of unlocking cams. The response key and other housekeeping data were stored in an NVRAM area (actually IIRC just a file called nvram.dat) - if the camera ever failed to boot, it assumed it was a crash due to corrupted NVRAM and replaced it with a known default copy. Letting the batteries drop out about a second after hitting the power switch would replace the response key with a "key" consisting of the imager manufacturer's name spelled backward and then forward.

    Eventually (being IIRC a couple *years*) they fixed all of these. You could still do it by shorting pins on the Flash or erasing part of it via external hardware, but the easy point-and-click software hacks were shored up. There was still debate as to whether the keys were algorithmically related to one another or one-time-pad random. Until...

    4) Somebody discovered PD left details (possibly code) of the keygen algorithm on their anonymous FTP server! It was pulled before I got a chance to see it ;-) but it was enough information that somebody wrote a tool to bruteforce a master key of some sort, which took a few computers about a week or 2. With the master key found, hackers just updated the GUI software to generate proper response keys, prompting PD to release the "please grant us a Mulligan" letter linked by the GP.

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.