The Short Answer


An email from a reader got me thinking about reducing the verbiage on my point about the decline in camera sales and why smartphones are such a threat. It's a two-part thought, but here's the entire story  so far:

  • The reason why digital cameras soared and killed film cameras is "instantaneous review." Suddenly everyone had an answer to "did I get the shot?"
  • The reason why smartphones are soaring and killing off digital cameras is "instantaneous sharing." Suddenly everyone has an answer for "how do I get this where people can see it?" 

Simple as that. 

This effectively makes the current approach of the camera makers completely wrong (intermediary app on smartphone that you have to use to move things to where you want them). It may take an intermediary app, but that app should really just be a configurable background conduit: you need to control the what, when, where on the camera and the app should just do that automatically via the smartphone in the background. 

There are two smartphone companies right now that could just take it further and integrate the right elements into their phones and cameras simultaneously, removing the need for any standalone app: Samsung and Sony. Why Samsung hasn't done that I can't imagine. Okay, I can imagine: they don't have any imagination; they need someone to show them what the answer is before they can produce and market it effectively. They're having a similar issue with their smart watch, smart TV, and all their other smart stuff: they don't seem to know what the secret ingredient is that ties things together right and are waiting for someone like Apple to show them. 

Sony, on the other hand, should be able to figure this out, but hasn't. They're still taking the intermediary app approach, and not really getting that very stable and productive. Someone in the phone group at Sony is saying "but we have to work with all cameras" while someone in the camera group at Sony is saying "but we have to work with all phones." As long as they continue to say that to each other, they'll not see the obvious answer.

Apple and Microsoft would need to make their own cameras or work with an existing camera maker to solve the problem. Don't necessarily count Apple out on that. The camera makers that don't have smartphone groups (Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Ricoh/Pentax) can't solve the "no app" problem without working directly with a smartphone maker. 

Everything I just wrote applies similarly to tablets, too. The WiFi equipped camera-to-computer is solvable with an application that runs in the background, but not a single one of the camera companies seem to be able to keep up with the OS updates very well, let alone try to accomplish this, let alone do it right.

Google is a special case, but they are as seriously missing the point as everyone else. Google Glass, like Samsung and Sony's smart watches, is too much duplicative in function, not enough supplemental. Google Glass seemed like it was going to be YASPA (yet another smartphone alternative). In other words, phone, computation, internet, camera, monitor,, all wrapped in one package. If that's the case, why would you need a smartphone if you had Google Glass? Realistically, though, Google Glass ought to simply be an input (camera and microphone) and output (monitor and speaker/earbud) device only, and key off your smartphone's existing capabilities. In other words, Google with Nexus and Google Glass is in the same place Samsung is with smartphone and cameras: they could integrate them perfectly if they had the imagination to. 

text and images © Thom Hogan 2013 -- all rights reserved // @bythom on twitter, hashtags #bythom, #gearophile