New Canon executive interview

Started Sep 10, 2007 | Discussions thread
David J. Littleboy Veteran Member • Posts: 3,317
Re: Canon surprises me in that aspect frequently

RDKirk wrote:

For a long-time global company to be as Japanese-centric as some folks on this forum would have us believe does not seem a reasonable assumption.

Canon certainly appears to be. Canon execs have stated more than
once that Canon is a very traditionally Japanese company
(consensus-driven and employment for life are two concepts they've
stated are strong in Canon Inc).

Those two concepts have always been a myth. For example, lifetime employment simply can't be real because there aren't as many management positions as there are entry level positions. The hierarchy is a steep pyramid (just like any other pyramid scheme) and serious thinning of the ranks happens at each promotion stage.

People who aren't promoted are shipped off to subsidiaries, where they either sink or swim. Canon never fires anyone, but their subsidiaries do. There are a few "madogiwazoku" positions (desks by the window out of the way where the occupant hopefully won't get in the way) , but these are for people who have managed to not get shipped off until near retirement.

There's a new trick at large Japanese companies. People who survive into their 50s and are actually doing good solid (but not promotable) work, are "asked" to take early retirement and then rehired in the same job at 2/3 salary. It's not all that painful for most people, since their kids are grown and loans paid down, but I have a cousin (in-law) at NTT whose kid wants to redo college in the US, and there's no way he can afford to be as much help as he'd like at 2/3 salary. Engineers who are too good to let go but don't want to play in the management rat-race fast lane, for example.

Having worked in both a large US electronics company (AT&T's Tokyo Unix office) and a large Japanese electronics company's research labs, it's amazing how similar they are. It's a very different game from the contract research start up I had been familiar with in the states.

Quirks in Canon design philosophy that most of
the people on Western forums become explanable when one looks first
at the Japanese market.

Once one knows, for instance, that Canon Inc sees the 5D market as
the well-to-do amateur with a mania for photography--and once one
knows that Japanese digital photographers are not nearly so
personal-computer oriented as Western digital photographers are, then
that print button begins to make sense.


Actually, minor quibble: they differentiate the "well-to-do amateurs" from the "enthusiasts with a mania"; the article here admits that the 5D isn't snappy or feature dense enough for the maniacs. Oops: the intervierwer states that.

Canon: I very much want there always to be a 5D class FF camera in the EOS product line in the future. This was my very first order when I became head of this business unit.

The FF camera is the product that can get the most from the capabilities of EF lenses. From the standpoint of increasing the pleasure of using interchangeable lenses, it is critical that we provide a FF camera at an affordable price. Therefore Canon will foster the growth of the 5D and its successors with great care. This is extremely important for supporting users for whom photography is a hobby.

Inteviewer: While the 5D very much is a camera that brings the advantages of full frame to the average user, it's response is a bit slow and leaden for the enthusiast. I'm actually a 5D user but, there aren't very many aspects (of the responsiveness) I'm really enthused about, and when shooting with the camera, I don't find myself thinking "Wow, what a great camera" very often.

Canon: I've felt the same thing about Canon's whole consumer line. If possible, I'd like to quantify the elements that contribute to "responsiveness" and make using a camera a pleasure, and work this out in detail with the development teams. It's not only a matter of making a high performance camera, I'd lke to create cameras that our users will get truly enthused about. Canon is serious about improving operability (ergonomics): you will continue to see great things from us.

Machine translation's getting better and better these days, no?

Back when Canon was having its problems with the 20D grip (two
problems, one with power and one with flex), Canon utterly ignored
Western complaints, but when home-market complaints came in, Canon
execs rushed out with humble apologies (the translations of their
statement carried the world "apologize" at least three times) and
offered a recall.

I missed that one, but in general, the customer gets listened to a lot more carefully over here. Service is uniformly wonderful (I've dealt with both Canon and Nikon service; positive experiences every time.)

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David J. Littleboy
Tokyo, Japan

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