Interesting analysis by Thomas Hogan- II

Started Sep 20, 2008 | Discussions thread
Thom Hogan Forum Pro • Posts: 13,660
Re: What you don't seem to appreciate, Thom..

Danielvr wrote:

..is that Panasonic have not designed 'a camera'. They are
introducing a totally new concept, a different way of shooting high
quality images.

Personally, I don't shoot with concepts; I shoot with cameras. I know very few consumers that buy concepts; they buy products. As I've written elsewhere, I can't begin to count the number of companies that seem to forget this sort of thing. Neither technology nor concept makes a product. They can ENABLE a product. If Panasonic hasn't designed a camera, then they shouldn't sell it as one ; ).

Micro Fourthirds cameras will be the first cameras to finally meet
the three most basic and most important requirements demanded by the
market as a whole:

  • Quality: very good image quality and reliability

  • Convenience: Small size, easy to use

  • Versatility: Suitable for many situations

Those are vagaries. When you design, you must have goals and specific targets. The quality level you wish needs to be defined. The size needs to be defined ("small" may be a shirt size, but it's not a recognizable camera size). "Easy to use" means nothing unless you define what that means. And "versatility" is often just a code word for "it does lots of things, none great." When I've done products and headed up product development, we've always had very specific wording that directed the product. I'll tell you one of the key MRD points for the original QuickCam, for example: "the fewest number of parts that will get sensor data to the CPU." That may not at first sound like a camera design goal, but it was a statement that we didn't want to spend any time designing in-camera logic. From the beginning we made the assumption that if we had excellent raw data over at the computer, we had plenty of computer horsepower to do things with that data. That's one of the reasons why the QuickCam was so darned inexpensive and created new markets.

The G1, as it is, will appeal to a very wide range of users,

"Appealing to a wide range of users" is always what the CEO says products should do, but successful products actually tend to appeal to narrow ranges of users. Really successful products (iPod comes to mind) make large numbers of users think differently about something they already do (listen to music). If you had done the iPod design with the "appeal to a wide range of users, such as mobile users, automobile users, home stereo users," you wouldn't have gotten the product Apple came up with.

It would have been a big mistake for Panasonic to
design this camera to a small and specific subset of users when this
new concept can be (and needs to be!!) sold to so many eager
consumers.

At the moment, Panasonic has near zero DSLR customers. You're arguing that they should try to design the Swiss Army Knife and get millions of customers instantly (okay, I'm pushing what you said a bit, but that's the gist). I'm saying that there are 500k+ users not being served by any current camera that would be served by the right m4/3 design. I would have shot for that and then started chipping away at the tangential customers.

We will certainly see more specialised models in the future; M43
cameras for old folks, M43 cameras for schoolgirls, M43 cameras for
young parents, M43 cameras for videographers, M43 cameras for Cartier
Bresson wannabees, etc. But to do so now would make no commercial
sense whatsoever. Why build a mini cooper or an aston-martin when the
world is still craving for a good volkswagen?

Almost all successes have started with the niche and grown. Trying to establish a mass market success and then growing it into niches is very rarely done.

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Thom Hogan
author, Complete Guides to Nikon bodies (18 and counting)
http://www.bythom.com

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