Sony's Bloggie Touch, billed as a "mobile HD snap camera," arrived on store shelves in November 2010. By January, the electronics giant had announced a three-dimensional version of the handheld device. The latter uses two lenses for recording high-definition 3-D video and still images, and it can also record in 2-D.
The evolution of Sony's Bloggie line-mirrored in many ways by the Flip camera franchise owned by Cisco Systems-suggests that manufacturers still believe in the viability of dedicated devices to shoot video and images, despite the growing popularity of smartphones and portable media players with camera modules.
For those who are anxious to record their life's every visual moment-whether for work, or because you feel that everyone on Facebook really, really needs to see photos from that weekend barbeque-cameras such as the Bloggie Touch offer all the advantages of a dedicated device: one button to turn it on, one big red-and-black button to record, and a USB port to upload the images and video to your PC and Mac.
The Bloggie Touch can shoot video in 1920 x 1080 resolution, along with 12.8-megapixel still images. The 3-inch touch-screen makes it easy to zoom via the onscreen slide, choose your preferred resolution, or sort through saved videos and photos. Sony claims the 8GB of built-in flash memory can store up to four hours of HD video.
By comparison, the Flip Ultra HD also offers 8GB of built-in memory, although it claims only two hours' HD video storage. (Both devices store recorded files in MP4 format.) The device boasts 1280 x 720 resolution, along with a slimmer body than previous iterations.
Despite their ease of use, these devices enter a marketplace where smartphones and portable media players have been adding new layers of functionality on a quarter-by-quarter basis. The latest iteration of Apple's iPod Touch, for example, includes a rear-facing camera capable of recording high-definition video and still photos with 960 x 720 resolution; its touch-screen likewise offers streamlined control.
Meanwhile, the growing family of Android devices features increasingly powerful cameras, and Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 smartphones include the ability to take images via depressing the mechanical shutter button, without needing to log into the actual camera application.
In a 2009 interview with The New York Times, Apple CEO Steve Jobs suggested that smartphones and their ilk would eventually win any market matchup with dedicated devices.
"I'm sure there will always be dedicated devices," he said, "and they may have a few advantages in doing just one thing. But I think the general-purpose devices will win the day. Because I think people just probably aren't willing to pay for a dedicated device."
But will Apple and other manufacturers create products that crowd out dedicated devices? That seems unlikely, so long as dedicated-device manufacturers keep producing cameras whose resolution and storage dwarfs that of the general-purpose devices on the market. As the Bloggie Touch and Flip suggest, those manufacturers have just that goal in mind.