When I was at a GoPro event earlier this year I saw how the crowd reacted to it and it is more than a product, it is now a movement. The little mountable camera is a brilliant example of how innovation can shape the industry structure of digital imaging and created a new path of growth under the radar screen of all big players from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Lumix and others for cameras and the Logitech, Microsoft, HP and others for video cam.
This little wearable camera company did an amazing job (now a US$10 Billion market cap company) invented a completely new category. The digital camera business is in decline while smartphone replacing low end cameras and more affordable DSLR and micro-four-thirds are driving margin out of the industry. GoPro managed to innovate based on a simple unmet needs. A perfect example of taking advantage of a corporate blindspot.
GoPro has been developing wearable technology devices "before they were cool." Nick Woodman developed the first GoPro camera in 2004; it was a film camera that could conveniently be strapped to a person's wrist, allowing users to easily snap a photo of memorable moments in action. So people don’ t need to put their cameras inside a waterproof bag. It’s the age of the selfie, GoPro are enabling video and action selfies. They are the best (and until recently the only) tools to be used to bring authentic and extreme actions to share with everyone. It is an answer to our needs to share moments and capture experiences. It is the defacto adventure broadcast system. The accessories system is impressive and that is part of the reason for their success.
GoPro's success stems from its ability to use consumer experience as advertisement. Customers are basically marketing their products. Otherwise it cost tens of millions to produce those. Now the National Football League is launching a digital streaming network, called NFL Now using GoPro. This NHL season, you'll be able to experience hockey from a whole new perspective — the players'. The NHL is teaming up with GoPro to provide footage of certain plays from the perspective of goalies and stick handlers. Now you'll be able to experience hockey from a whole new perspective – the players'. Yes, they've just reinvented sports broadcast. Think about it, it is more than a hardware company selling a commoditized product (video camera) that can be easily produced at half the price, and GoPro is not just a sports cam anymore.
GoPro is as much a content and media company as it is a hardware company. GoPro's lightweight HD devices and content management/sharing platform – through GoPro Studio and the GoPro App – enables users to capture, edit, manage, and share. So it is offering a full solution. The barriers for entry to compete with them is very high, it is not just hardware anymore but also brand, content and full suite of editing software. It is in fact in the business of content capture and delivery. In addition to the Xbox, new platforms have enabled GoPro to stream its videos on airline Virgin America through a dedicated channel.
Companies including Garmin, Polaroid, Sony and HTC are all joining game. Their products would have to be overwhelmingly better than GoPro’s for GoPro users to abandon their brand loyalty, which is hard. HTC is playing a different game and the product is uniquely different targeted for the non-consumers. This is a way smarter strategy than Sony and Garmin who try to compete head on. Panasonic's 4K solution was a joke.
HTC’s strategy is like Nintendo’s strategy with Wii in the early days (huge success unfortuantely they couldn't sustain) competing for the non-consumers. They opened up new markets not targeting extreme gamers but for family and casual gamers. HTC RE is playing a similar game and stands a good stance to carve out their niche. Or perhaps that niche is 80% of the market that are non-consumers. How many people actually do extreme sports? 10% or 20%? HTC RE will need to compete on a different model.
The HTC RE is a clean and simple product which is the opposite of GoPro. HTC's design philosophy is that users are all trapped behind the screens of our smartphones when we capture important moments in our lives, whether that's a sports game or a fashion show. HTC RE is lightweight, simple, and out of the way so that allegedly, documenting your life doesn't stop you from missing the experience. It is still very early stage in the game and whether GoPro will continue to dominate the category or it will fade away like the first MP3 player Creative Technology Ltd., we will have to wait and see.
Porductwsie GoPro range has a fixed f/2.8 aperture, the same as the HTC RE Camera, which should good enough in most lowe light conditions. Both feature an ultra-wide angle lens to capture a broader view than point and click cameras or smartphones. Both are supported by a good range of accessories. Both pair up with apps that can be used as remote control and viewfinders. In terms of look… that depends on what you wear. If you wear Roxy, Nike or Columbia you most likely will buy a GoPro. If you wear Y3, G-Star, Converse, Anthropologie or AX, you will most likely buy a HTC RE. Or you can have both.