Without warning Cisco closed its Flip pocket camcorder business this week. The news was a surprise, but on reflection we should have seen it coming. Even mid-range mobile phones these days offer high quality video recording and simple upload and editing functionality. Which got us thinking: what other products could soon face the technological scrapheap?
Satellite and Cable TV
Sky and Virgin may dominate premium television in the UK, but they will increasingly feel the pressure from Internet-based streaming media. Services like BBC iPlayer, 4oD and ITV Player have become hugely popular with mainstream customers in the last few years and the convenience of on-demand programming from vast online libraries makes even relatively advanced platforms like Virgin's new TiVo digibox look antiquated by comparison.
Naturally onscreen UIs and controllers will need to evolve, but the dawn of phone apps provides a great opportunity for simple, intuitive and powerful virtual remotes. Free services like Freeview could be harder to unseat, but the newly unveiled unified streaming TV service, which will unite the BBC, ITV, BT, Channel 4, TalkTalk, Arqiva and Five will have a mighty presence. Especially with Sky's interest already suggesting a sense of 'if you can't beat them, join them'.
Major challenges remain such as advertising and consistently fast and ubiquitous broadband speeds, but the benefits of connecting a TV directly to the Internet should see it win through in the long term.
The unshakeable camera enthusiast may never switch, but for the vast majority mobile phones will eventually replace dedicated cameras. There is still some way to go, but the likes of the eight megapixel sensor and Xenon flash used in Sony Ericsson's Cyber-shot C905 gives a glimpse of a future where the compromise in quality will be minimal, especially compared to low and midrange compact cameras.
That said quality isn't the only factor. Handsets have larger screens for immediately viewing your results, a significant benefit for casual snaps when with friends. Handsets also have greater functionality for editing and ubiquitous 3G and WiFi for uploading the results. Even websites play a part. After all mobile phone photos may rarely be good enough to print, but if the low resolution requirements of Facebook are their final location then this matters less.
The only obvious factor that will stopl mobile phones gobbling up that bottom rung of the compact camera market is their lack of a zoom. We've seen the odd concept phone with such a thing but essentially if you want to get a closer view of the action a traditional compact will still have its place.