What do you do when you buy a cool new gadget, and the company that makes it suddenly and without warning announces it's canceling it, even though that device is the hottest one in its category?
That's what millions of Flip camcorder customers are asking themselves this week. Despite being ranked as the No. 1 mini camcorder on Amazon, Cisco Systems shocked loyal Flip fans this week when it announced it was killing the product line. Cisco bought Pure Digital, the maker of the popular Flip mini video camera a couple of years ago, as part of its big push into the consumer market. But as Cisco slipped in its core businesses, the company's chief executive pledged to get back on track and cut businesses that didn't meet its main objectives. And the Flip was thrown out with the bathwater.
In this week's Ask Maggie column, I help a new Flip customer figure out his options. I also answer another reader's question about the Cablevision iPad app and offer some advice about buying a dual-core processor smartphone versus a single core processor one.
Ask Maggie is a weekly advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. If you've got a question, please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header.
Flipping out over the death of the Flip
I read your story that Cisco is killing the Flip camera product. I just bought the Silver MinoHD earlier this year. How do I get my money back? Will Best Buy accept this type of return if the company is no longer producing products? What kind of support will I get for this product and can I still use it once Cisco stops making them? What should I do now? Help!
I've got some good news for you and some bad news. First, the bad news: You can't return the Flip to Best Buy unless you bought it within the past 14 days, according to Best Buy's return policy. And since you said you bought your Silver MinoHD "earlier this year," I'm guess it was longer than 14 days ago. I double checked the retailer's policy with a phone call to the Best Buy customer support line. The person I spoke with said that the policy still stands even though Cisco is planning to stop making the product. So I am afraid you're out of luck in terms of getting your money back.
The good news is that you should be able to continue to use the Flip camera to take video and upload those videos to your computer and/or Web sites with no problems. The software that is needed to upload the video from your Flip camera to a computer is inside the Flip. So the easy uploading process should continue to function. The only issue is that Cisco will not be releasing software updates with enhancements to the Flip software. So you will pretty much be stuck with the latest generation of software that's currently on your Flip.
What might be painful for Flip users--and now we're back to some potential bad news again--is what happens to videos uploaded and stored in Cisco's FlipShare service. FlipShare is a cloud-based service that is similar to a photo service like Flickr. People can upload their videos to servers in the Internet cloud managed by Cisco, and share them with friends and family through the FlipShare service or through easy access to social-networking sites, such as Facebook.
Now that Cisco is canceling the Flip, what will happen to FlipShare? In its press release announcing the death of the Flip, Cisco said that it will "support current FlipShare customers and partners with a transition plan." But so far Cisco hasn't elaborated on that plan.
Karen Tillman, a spokeswoman for Cisco, said the company is working on a transition plan now and will have more details available in the next couple of weeks.
I went on Cisco's FlipShare Web site to ask a customer service representative via an online chat about this transition. She tried to reassure me that there was nothing to be concerned about. She said that "whether you recently bought your Flip camera or are planning to buy one soon, we will continue to support you according to the terms and conditions stated in your warranty and on our Web site."
As for the FlipShare service itself, the online chat representative said, "We still have no estimated time, but as long as the there are still Flip users, the server for FlipShare will still be available for your Flip videos."
But she advised me that if I'm concerned about losing video, I should back it up on an external hard drive before loading it onto FlipShare. She could not provide me with any information about saving video already stored on FlipShare but deleted from my camera saved anywhere else.
So my advice to you and other Flip users out there is to stop storing video on FlipShare.
DVR viewing restricted on iPad apps
I just downloaded Cablevision's iPad for the Optimum TV service this weekend. And it is amazing! We had a small party at our house to watch the Paris-Roubaix bike race, and we were able to watch the race as we prepared dinner in the kitchen. And then later when we went on our back deck, we were able to take the iPad outside with us to watch it too. I saw there was a button in the app for the DVR. Can we also watch recorded content via the app? If not, why? And when might it be available?
Unfortunately, the iPad streaming TV app from Cablevision only allows you to watch live TV shows. You can also watch video on demand content. But you can't watch recorded DVR programming through the app. That said, you can schedule future recordings and manage (erase) previously-recorded content using the app.
I'm not really sure why you can't watch recorded shows from your DVR on the iPad. Cablevision already offers networked DVR capability so that people can watch DVR programming on TVs that are not connected directly to a DVR. A Cablevision spokesman wouldn't elaborate on why this feature is missing in the iPad app or whether it would be added later. I suspect that Cablevision is not allowing you to watch recorded shows on your iPad via the app because it might violate its programming rights with content owners.
Viacom is already challenging cable operators that are launching iPad apps. Viacom has notified Cablevision that its iPad app is not an authorized use of its content. And last week, the company filed a lawsuit against Time Warner Cable asserting the same thing with regard to its iPad app.
Cablevision argues that delivering video to an iPad in the home, which its service is restricted to doing, is no different than allowing another TV in the home access the video content.
"Programmers are paid based on how many homes we securely connect to their content, not how many televisions display it, so they have never questioned whether a customer has a single TV or a dozen 50-inch flat panels in the home--it's all cable television," Cablevision said in its statement. "Optimum App for iPad simply turns the iPad into another television in the home, and one it is worth noting our customers are finding particularly enjoyable and easy to use."
So even though I agree with you that being able to watch your DVR content on your iPad is very cool, it may not happen for some time, while Cablevision and other cable companies work through these issues.
Dual core vs. single core? Does it even matter?
I live in an area where we don't have 4G wireless broadband coverage, and we probably won't get it for a while. I know a few of the new 4G phones from Verizon Wireless will have dual core processors in them. So I would like to know if I should get one of the dual-core processor phones even though I'd be using it on a 3G network. Does dual core really matter?
Dual-core processor technology is the latest buzz in smartphones. But my colleague Kent German, CNET Reviews editor, and I agree that for the average smartphone consumer it shouldn't be the main factor in deciding which smartphone to get. Phones with dual-core processors may be slightly snappier than devices with a single processor, but it's probably not speedy enough for most people to notice, especially if you are using the phone on a 3G network.
Kent said users may notice the difference in dual core versus single processor phones once Google releases the next version of the Android OS, code named Ice cream. This next version of Android will likely be optimized to take advantage of the dual-core processor technology. But considering most smartphones today don't yet have the current Gingerbread version of Android, Ice cream is still a ways off.
That said, the dual-core processors are the technology of the future for smartphones, and it's a nice addition to have if you happen to like a particular smartphone that sports one.