Window, Mirror, or Other Cars?

(commentary)

Let me try an analogy for you. When you’re in a competitive market, where are your designers looking? 

Are they looking ahead out the front window of the vehicle trying to figure out where to steer? 

Are they looking in the rear view mirror admiring where they’ve been?

Or are they looking all around them trying to figure out where the competitors are in relationship to themselves?

In the smartphone and personal computer world, Apple is looking through the front window and going where they want to go. Anyone that doubts that just isn’t paying any attention to what they’ve accomplished and continue to accomplish. The look out around themselves very infrequently. Google is doing all three things, including looking in the rear view mirror to see how all those Android folks are doing with their old OS’s that never got upgraded ;~). But mostly they now have Apple innovating ahead of them and people like Mozilla doing the low-cost provider thing underneath them, and both are troubling problems for Google long-term, so they’re spending a lot of their time looking at competitors.

What’s this have to do with cameras? Well, where are the camera company designers looking?

I’m tempted to say that they’ve driven the car to a rest stop and and are relaxing, or maybe they’ve driven it off the cliff and are just screaming ;~). But mostly I’d say they’re all looking at each other and the smartphone upstarts trying to figure out where the heck they are. Not a single Japanese camera company seems to have any view out the front window at all. If there’s a strong idea in Japan about what the camera of the future will be like, I’ve never heard it, and I don’t know who has that idea. 

There’s an old saying that goes “if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll get there.” The problem, of course, is that “there” is almost certainly not where you want to be. 

I’m still waiting for the day when any Japanese camera company can show me a clear strategy of how they’ll survive this monstrous downturn, let alone a path to a new destination. No strong hand with a clear vision has shown up at any of the companies. The best possibilities I can come up with are Sigma, who’s decided to go off road; and Fujifilm, who repaved a small street and now is going back and forth on it. Neither seems like they’ve discovered what the camera of the future will be like. 

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