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Is GoPro now a no-go?

29 September 2017

The GoPro company was the perfect example of my claims that if you want to make a lot of money you should "create new markets and own them".

The company that came up with the "action camera" concept and old it to the masses in the form of a tough, durable, high resolution, small and lightweight camera that could record a user's action-adventure pastimes was a brilliant one.

The technology, in the form of SD cards, mega-pixel sensors and high-powered image processing chips was readily available and GoPro were smart enough to throw it all together into a small form-factor device that delivered impressive results.

By being the first company to take such a device from concept to commercial popularity, GoPro created the action camera market and by always staying one step ahead of the competition in terms of performance and feature-set, they really did own that market for a long time.

However, it's starting to look as if they've now dropped the ball and even the two new cameras they've just announced probably won't have enough "wow" factor to stave off the myriad of competitors who are now taking large chunks of their customers away.

The two new cameras just announced are the 360-degree "Fusion" and the latest iteration of the Hero range, the Hero 6.

As this BBC report points out, GoPro are pretty late to the party with a 360 degree offering -- which puts them in the position of having to steal market share from someone else. This does not fit into the mantra of "create new markets and own them" and that suggests that the company is struggling.

To be honest, having had a play with 360 degree cameras, I think they're going to be as popular and successful as 3D -- ie: not very.

While it sounds like a great idea, the reality is that the novelty is greater than the practicality and, as we all know, novelty is often a short-lived incentive to buy. Hence all the 3D cameras and TV sets and BluRay players that now spend their days delivering 2D content only.

Don't get me wrong, there are good applications for 360 degree cameras -- such as real-estate agents who want to create "walk-through" experiences that can be viewed online. But for your holiday videos... no thanks. This thing is too big, too bulky and, to be honest, too expensive to be a real action camera.

The other camera is the Hero 6, an evolutionary update to the versions which came before it. At NZ$850, it's not cheap either and despite the impressive performance on paper, I really wonder if they've done enough to fend of competition from the mountain of various Sino-brands that are nipping at their heels.

For example, I recently reviewed the SJCam SJ7 which is a true 4K camera at 30 or 25 FPS and which competes quite favourable with the Hero 4 and 5 for a tiny fraction the price. If your needs are more humble, there are cameras such as the Runcam 3 which offers 1080p HD recording at 30 or 60 frames per second and comes in the same form factor as the GoPro Session - but at half the price. And just this week I received the Foxeer Box, a 4K camera also with a Session form-factor and pretty impressive performance -- again for a fraction the price of "the real deal".

So GoPro no longer "own" the action camera market and although their brand still has significant cachet, they are now competitors in their own marketspace and that is bound to mean reduced sales, margins and profits.

What would I do if I was GoPro?

Well I'd forget bout trying to steal market-share from DJI in the drone market (as they have already proved was a futile move). Instead, I'd be looking for another completely new market to create; and own; at least for a while.

Have GoPro had their day in the sun? Are they now going to descend to the level of "also ran" in the action camera market?

What would you do if you were in GoPro's shoes?

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