My theory: Cisco shot the Flip from a grassy knoll*

In my post the other day about Cisco killing the Flip camera, I wrote, “While there are those who say the iPhone and other smart phones have killed the need for the Flip, those people tend to be the same people who won’t agree that the iPad has killed the need for the Kindle. In other words, can’t there be innovations in one-utility devices — maybe a Flip Flickr with autoload to the web via wifi? Or cameras in different shapes, for different purposes — all sorts of HD wifi enabled webcams. Cisco obviously didn’t care — that spot on the supply chain of content exchange wasn’t seeming sweet, or even desirable, to them anymore”

Today, New York Times weekly gadgeteer writer David Pogue suggested another theory:

“Cisco is…in the videoconferencing business, and the Flip’s video quality—for its size and price—was amazing. Maybe, in fact, that was Cisco’s plan all along. Buy the beloved Flip for its technology, then shut it down and fire 550 people.”

Pogue also reported that he had seen a demo of a new version of the Flip that’s similar to the “HD wifi enabled webcam” I envisioned in that previous post — Pogue said it was going to be launched this week, even: A product called FlipLive that, if in a wi-fi hotspot, could stream video to the internet.

Nice conspiracy theory, but let me see if I can add another layer.

In my theory, I’ll suggest Cisco bought the Flip to kill it because the company saw it as a threat to much bigger investment and opportunity in which the company has tied its future.

While Cisco bought Flip for $600 million or so, it has several billion dollars invested in both ultra high-end teleconferencing and in a down-market service called, “Webex for which it paid $3.2 billion at a time when Webex had sales of only $380 million.

Webex has become the focus of Cisco’s expansion of teleconferencing into the small business market and also onto iPhones, Androids and the iPad platforms.

But if the HD quality live-streaming feature of the FlipLive is as good as Pogue says, how much would it take to hack a telepresence set up that would cut dramatically into the hours of time businesses spend on Webex services.

Think about it: A few FlipLives in a couple of conference rooms could even replicate some of the close up face-to-face types of visual features one uses to justify spending $50,000 and up on a Cisco telepresence product.

A conspiracy theory?

We’ll see.

*By “grassy knoll,” of course I’m referring to this grassy-color Knoll Generation office chair a Cisco executive was sitting in while making the decision to buy and bury the Flip.