Google and Pure Digital almost partnered for Flip Video camera
Back before Google acquired (and then sold) Motorola, and back before Google had developed its first Pixel-branded smartphone, the search giant nearly released a Flip Video camera in partnership with Pure Digital at the dawn of the YouTube era.
According to internal emails obtained by the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust sub-committee (via The Verge), Google Video product manager Peter Chane attempted to convince colleagues to partner with Pure Digital, the owner of Flip Video, for a consumer video camera.
In a 2006 email, Chane highlights the popularity of Pure Digital and argues how important personal video cameras would be for a community-driven site such as Google Video. The emails laid out Chane’s argument and his urgency to get a deal done before Yahoo and YouTube did something similar. At the time, YouTube was still a competitor to Google Video.
We already know that Google never made a deal to release a Google-branded Flip Video camera, but there were conversations about the possibility. What ultimately happened was, at the suggestion of Google Video director Jennifer Feikin, Google opted to pursue an acquisition of YouTube instead, and the rest is history.
“I think perhaps a better route to take would be quickly figure out the strategy of how to work with both types of content in the ideal ways, and then to acquire YouTube,” Feikin said in an email.
Feikin said she admired YouTube’s UI and active community. By acquiring YouTube, Google could then use its considerable resources to scale the service and bring it to a wider audience. Some colleagues were apparently skeptical about acquiring YouTube, but Google ultimately made a deal all the way back in 2006.
Today, Google is one of the most popular websites on the internet, while Pure Digital and its Flip Video cameras are no more, thanks in part to the rise of smartphones. In hindsight, it was good business sense from Google, but it still would have been interesting to see a Google-branded Flip Video camera.