The electronics product of the year is without doubt the FLIP Video camcorder, made by an unknown startup company called Pure Digital Technologies based in San Francisco. This innovation illustrates what Amnon Levav at SIT Systematic Inventive Thinking, in Tel Aviv, calls “subtraction” – innovating by removing features rather than adding them. It is a powerful way to systematically develop innovations, because most innovators are stuck in the rut of ‘addition’ – adding features, creating needless cost, complication and complexity.  

Pure Digital began in 2001 as a maker of throwaway digital cameras. Buyers offered feedback, as they always do. Founder Jonathan Kaplan listened carefully. He produced, as the customers requested, a permanent shoot-and-share video camera that was fun, easy to use and above all, really cheap. It appeared just in time to tap into the craze for homegrown videos posted on blogs and YouTube, and when existing camcorder markers were busy adding unnecessary bells and whistles to their expensive products.

FLIP is the size of a bar of soap. It has no slot for memory cards. Instead it has a flip-out USB key (no cables!) [press a button and it pops out!] and internal storage of from 30 to 60 minutes. 

Its built-in software loads instantly when you plug it in to your computer.

Price? $150 for the 30-minute version, $180 for the 60-minute one. Over a million have been sold this year, out of a total market of 6 million units. 

Pure Digital has, in the words of the ‘blue oceans’ school, changed the rules of the camcorder game. It has proved that in winning innovations, often, less is more.

FLIP: Orange version, with pop-out USB