The time is ripe.
I have yet to see anyone asking hard questions about where new product ideas came from at AAPL in the past decade. Did Steve Jobs wake up, shout Eureka! and conclude the world needed an iPad? I doubt it. Jobs was adept at looking at mass market products whose execution/UI were poor (PCs, the Walkman, cell phones, laptops, mobile devices) and making them better.
I have long argued that Apple should make a camera – look at the simply awful UIs of every camera out there. Knobs, button, horrendous software/menus, etc. The world needs a Wii-like camera, the ease of use of the one in the iPhone with a physical design that makes it easy to hold. Add in Siri and get rid of all those stupid buttons. Why shouldn’t you speak to your camera? “Use HDR in this one”. “Blur the background”. “Stop motion”. “Focus on the eyes”. And like other fields Apple has entered, with existing low margins and commodity characteristics (PCs, phones) there’s room for a premium offering which works better.
The current rumor, resurfacing again, has it that Apple should make a television set. A camera melds better with Apple’s business model which seeks to force upgrades every 2-3 years. That characteristic is completely absent from the television market where technological change has ceased and ‘brains’ can be added with the likes of an AppleTV at very low cost. And those ‘brains’ can be upgraded for $100 in 3 years’ time.
Digital idiocy. Today’s dinosaur, awaiting obsolescence – the DSLR.
In its thinking behind the design of the camera in the iPhone 4S Apple has clearly studied the needs of photographers. The outstandingly low shutter lag and inter-frame delay testify to the realization that not only sports shooters need those attributes. Mommy wanting to get little Johnny in the frame – rather than the background he has just vacated – spur the realization that the market for fast and responsive gear is anything but exclusively a professional one. Add in-camera HDR as the iPhone 4S does and one of the biggest drawbacks of the digital sensor is addressed – burned out highlights. But the 4S can only go so far. As a camera its ergonomics stink. As a design concept it has enormous promise. The five element lens is all plastic. That makes it light. I frankly don’t care what my lens is made of if its light, small and sharp. If it’s sharp because of software, that’s fine with me. If that same software confers limited depth of field that’s even better. ‘Fast’ lenses will soon be a thing of the past. All lenses will be ‘fast’ thanks to better sensors and better software. And, I’ll venture the guess, that’s also fine with all but the 0.1% of fetishists who get off on resolution charts.
What got me thinking about this topic yet again the other day was a silly little snap I took when getting the groceries:
The car was turning the corner and the magnificent Standard Poodle was pretty much directing things through the sunroof. In a second the picture would be gone. I grabbed the 4S from the belt holster, made the camera live without by passing the lock screen (two stabs at the Home button) and the snap was in the bag. Now if Apple can do that in the crappy form factor of a cell phone, why not do it right with a dedicated camera?
C’mon Apple, photographers everywhere are waiting to be told they need to pay up for fast and simple.