Reports that electronics giant Samsung is considering a camera based around Google's Android operating system should come as no real surprise. Not only does it seem like the obvious way of responding to the industry's need to compete with smartphones, it's also a solution readily available to them.
The need for connectivity
The rise in popularity of smartphones has undoubtedly had an impact on the sales and use of compact cameras. Just about every meeting we've had with manufacturers over the past year has turned to this topic at one point or another. There are other factors, of course - not least that lots of people already own cameras they're fairly happy with - but the always-with-you convenience of a smart phones, combined with their ability to immediately upload the results, is hard to compete with.
|The Samsung WB150F was one of four WiFi-enabled cameras Samsung launched at CES 2012|
This year's camera launches have showed a concerted effort by manufacturers to bridge the connectivity gap. The cameras announced around CES 2012 included eight WiFi-capable cameras from four manufacturers (with Samsung's four models making it the most committed). This is a big step forward from the occasional, token 'if you want that sort of thing' premium model. If nothing else, it suggests camera makers are aware of the need for better-connected cameras.
All of these models have taken the approach of primarily connecting to smartphones, which already have both the broader connection options and the flexible interfaces required to log-on to and communicate with networks and websites. But, while there's every possibility that a company with the smartphone smarts of Samsung might choose to transfer these capabilities to the camera and offer direct connection to third or fourth generation telecomms networks, Android would still have appeal even if it didn't.
The appeal of Android, in addition to its propensity for connectivity, is the existence of an ecosystem of photo-related apps. These would allow an Android camera to benefit from a range of existing processing tools far in advance of anything any current camera can offer.
And, if Samsung allowed it, the platform's relative openness could also allow dedicated users to modify the behaviour of their own cameras. Don't like the way the buttons and dials work? Write an app to customize it.
It's public knowledge that camera processors running Android are available to manufacturers. We know of at least one device built around Ambarella's iOne chip, it just doesn't happen to reveal its nature to the user (so no downloading Photoshop Express just yet). There's also the Polaroid-branded
mobile phone camera displayed at CES, which is more up-front about its intentions. We also have reason to believe Samsung has used Ambarella processors in previous cameras.
At which point it should be obvious that Samsung has motive, means and opportunity to create an Android-based camera if it wanted to. The official response may be that it 'hasn't confirmed anything regarding potential use of Android or any other platform on future generations of Samsung Smart Cameras' but it's no surprise to hear that it's also 'something we are monitoring.'
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