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The Corpses Of Convergence

Smartphones are eating cameras, not the other way around. But how is a camera company supposed to come to terms with that?

Posted on August 22, 2012, at 11:14 a.m. ET

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The above video is a joke. This, however, is not:

I have no doubt that this will be a somewhat better camera than any smartphone on the market; I also have no doubt that this camera will be a far worse multimedia app device than a new smartphone. This is perhaps the clearest example of what happens when one half of a big convergence moment — cameras and smartphones — brings far less to the table than the other. If smartphones and pocket cameras were two companies, this wouldn't be a merger. Smartphones would be performing a hostile takeover.

These events happen fairly often now, but they can be hard to spot, and the trail they leave is hard to follow — an odd collection of failed or unenthusiastically embraced stopgap products that are connected by the fact that they were on the wrong side of history, and that they were awkwardly converted into much more ambitious products; platforms hastily constructed around features, rather than the other way around.

When Cisco realized Flip cams would be replaced by phones, it tried to makes its cameras more like phones (then gave up completely):

When TV makers realized that apps and internet content mattered, and that platforms like Apple's and Google's and Amazon's would be the future of TV, they all quickly tried to build app platforms, none of which were satisfying.

When Sony realized that phones and computers and tablets were replacing alarm clocks, it licensed Chumby's software to try to build a tablet into an alarm clock.

The last five years, and the next five, were and will be about remaking the consumer tech industry around platforms. This has redefined how companies and products die, too. Products don't get obsoleted by something better or faster anymore. They get made redundant, subsumed, and incorporated into something bigger for pennies on the dollar.

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