Flip is Dead. MP3 Players, Point & Shoot Cameras Next?
If you are a tech news follower, you know that Cisco has kill its Flip video camera business, costing 550 employees their jobs in the process. The sudden decision by Cisco is not surprising. A dedicated point and shoot video camera has almost no place in today's market, filled with smartphones capable of HD recording. Flip's death was inevitable whether or not Cisco made the decision. It was just a question of how soon. What we can conclude in Flip's story is this: As soon as a single-purpose gadget's ability is matched by smartphones, the said gadget will have hard time keeping its head above water. And this brings up another question—are MP3 players like the iPod next in line? Will point-and-shoot cameras suffer the same fate? MP3 Players In the pre-iPhone era, MP3 players were a real hit. There were something every cool kid had. When the iPhone came along, accompanied by other so-called "iPhone killers", the tide changed. According to the chart below, iPod saw its peak sales in 2008, a year after the iPhone was launched. Subsequent years show slight declines. Mind you though, the numbers include the sales of the iPod touch, launched months after the iPhone. The decline is more apparent if the iPod Touch is not taken into account. With its ability to do almost anything the iPhone does (except for calling of course), the Touch is hardly a dedicated MP3 player, more like a all-round entertainment device. The way people listen to music has also changed. Internet radios like Pandora, Last.fm and Grooveshark can now be conveniently accessed on smartphones with 3G or 4G connections. Very few people like the idea of plugging their portable players into the PC just to sync newly downloaded songs. Cloud streaming services like the newly launched Amazon Cloud Player and rumored Google music service would be perfect for such users. And guess what? A constant Internet connection is required to enjoy these services without interruption. That is exactly what smartphones are capable of, and not the conventional MP3 players. Steve Jobs saw all this coming. Cult of Mac reported that Apple is working hard to bring wireless sync to iPods. That will probably keep iPods selling a little longer, but no way is it gonna reverse the declining trend of MP3 player sales. Point-and-shoot Cameras The best camera is the one that's with you. The one that you can reach for in your pocket and shoot that special moment in just seconds. These moments are normally unforeseeable. With your point-and-shoot at home, the next best choice is nothing other than whipping out your smartphone. Capturing the moment is one thing. Sharing the moment is another. With a point-and-shoot, it's frustratingly tedious and slow to get the the photos online. First, either plug the camera into a PC or use a card reader. Then copy the photo over, and finally, upload. Smartphones make things way easier. It's just a tap or two away before your newly captured photo gets uploaded and shared on social networks. In a smartphone, the camera will continue to innovate itself as app developers find new ways to make photography and sharing more fun. Instagram is a good example. The newly launched Postagram app even lets you order print copies of your Instagram photos and send them to anyone in the world. Everything happens within the smartphone itself. A point-and-shoot camera, on the other hand, will remain what it is from the day you buy it. It definitely will not innovate itself like a smartphone. The last remaining reason for point-and-shoot camera buyers to justify their purchase is the superior photo quality. No doubt, point-and-shoot can take way better photos than a smartphone. Otherwise the entire industry would cease to exist. But that is changing, albeit slowly. Photos captured using the Nokia N8 are comparable to those of point-and-shoot cameras. It is only a matter of time before other smartphone manufacturers figure out how to sneak a powerful lens into their device while keeping it slim. For most casual users, the convenience of not having to carry two devices and not needing to undergo the photo transferring process far outweighs the superior photo quality offered by point-and-shoots. This is evident on Flickr's top 5 cameras list, where not a single point-and-shoot camera can be found. The iPhone 4 holds spot number 2, while the other 4 cameras are all DSLRs, the kind people who really cares about photo quality should get. Single-purpose gadgets, watch your back! MP3 players and point-and-shoot cameras are not the only two gadgets that are moving toward obsolescence. Any other single-purpose gadget is at risk of being cannibalized by multipurpose gadgets that can replace their functionality. That is not limited to smartphones, but also tablets, thanks to Apple. E-book readers are at risk. Portable gaming consoles are at risk. Even digital voice recorders are at risk (yes, there are people still using them). What other gadgets do you think will be obsolete in coming years?