Samsung looking ahead to carrier-subsidized 'connected cameras'
Dpreview is in Seoul, South Korea, with Samsung. As is usually the case, most of our discussions with senior executives have been off-the-record, but we'll be publishing the interesting extracts from our conversations we can cover in the coming days and weeks. For now though, Sunhong Lim - VP Sales & Marketing in Samsung's Digital Imaging division, spoke at length to dpreview and a small group of other journalists about his vision of Samsung's role in shaping the future of cameras as mobile communication devices.
'Customers are looking for a total solution'
Of all the major camera manufacturers, Samsung is making perhaps the most concerted effort to introduce smartphone-like features into its camera lineup. Several of its 2012 models feature WiFi connectivity, and some, like the innovative flip-screen MV800, utilize a distinctly 'app-like' graphic user interface. We asked Lim what the future holds.
Although he wouldn't be drawn on specific plans (at least not on record) Lim told us that he believes 'customers are looking for a total solution for their images, not only capturing pictures but editing and sharing. We want to provide this solution, but in order to realize this vision the camera must be connected. This is why we are adding WiFi to our camera lineup [in 2012]'.
'Once people experience the technology they love it'
We asked Lim whether it is difficult to educate consumers in the benefits of a so-called connected-camera. He said it is, but only for certain demographics. 'The technology is brand new' he explained, 'and so is the experience. Our prime target consumers are young people because they are connected, and well-exposed to [this sort of] technology. After we've targeted those consumers we will expand our target market'.
Lim went on - 'in order to educate the experience is key. Once people experience the technology they love it and once they love it, then they buy it'.
|The WB150F is capable of connecting to WiFi networks and Android smartphones, allowing you to view and share images on a wide variety of devices, as well as email and social networking websites.|
The 'experience' that Lee mentions is the experience of using Samsung's newest compacts as connected devices, capable of allowing images to be edited and shared straight from the camera. Once connected, Samsung's latest WiFi-equipped compact cameras, like the WB150F allow users to email images and share them on Facebook straight from the camera. The same technology allows photographers to browse images from their camera directly to a WiFi-equipped AllShare or DLNA enabled television, and to an Android smartphone via Samsung's MobileLink app.
'Cameras will have the same processing power as smartphones'
At present, smartphones pack more processing power than cameras, but as a consequence they also cost more. Is not unusual for unsubsidized smartphones, with their powerful processors and plentiful in-built memory to cost upwards of $500.
We asked Lim whether he envisages digital cameras with the same processing power as modern phones in the future. Right now, he explained, 'semiconductor firms are feeding the demand for smartphones because the market is so much bigger [than it is for cameras]'. That said, Lim predicts that 'in a year or two cameras will have the same processing power and memory as smartphones'.
'Non-connected devices will be meaningless'
Although he would go on record with any comments on the possibility of cameras being released with mobile operating systems and built-in 3G/4G connectivity, we asked Lim whether he envisages so called 'connected cameras' being subsidized by wireless carriers in the future, in the same way as smartphones are today.
'In the future, maybe', Lim told us. 'Right now people use phones more than cameras. But once the cloud computing era truly dawns, a non-connected device will be meaningless. In that case, the camera will need real-time connectivity, and [carriers] are looking for devices like this'.
'Many companies' he went on, are developing cloud services, 'but right now there aren't many devices [connecting] to that cloud. Photos and videos are the main data traffic generator, so carriers are naturally very interested in the [concept of a] connected camera. [Carrier-subsized] business models may appear in the near future. The technology is there now but we need to wait for the business model to make sense.'
Asked for his personal opinion, Lim predicted 'it will come very soon'.