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02-18-2015, 12:51 PM   #1
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The end of innovation for Sony?

Sony announced their medium term corporate strategy yesterday
http://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/IR/info/strategy2015/pdf/presenE.pdf

Slide 10 - imaging products not listed as a growth driver - image sensors are

Slide 11 - imaging products listed as a "stable profit generator"

Interesting quote: "aim to record stable profits and create positive cash flows without large scale investments"

I wonder what this means in terms of continuing evolution of Sony's camera bodies and lenses.


Last edited by Christine Tham; 02-18-2015 at 05:12 PM.
02-18-2015, 12:56 PM   #2
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2015-2017 is fairly a short period so I would not call it as the end of innovation.
I would doubt this includes any plans for actual development of technology, but rather just business strategies for this term.
02-18-2015, 01:40 PM   #3
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Sony is innovating. They're just not doing so with the old Alpha mount. Camera makers have zero interest in letting you use legacy lenses. Both Canon and Minolta abandoned their manual focus mount entirely to "innovate" which is a code word for milking your customers dry.
02-18-2015, 01:42 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Christine Tham Quote
I wonder what this in terms of continuing evolution of Sony's camera bodies and lenses.
Take out the "creative" entertainment properties (which are a very different type of business) and this presentation could have been used for hundreds of different global manufacturers in just about any industry. To answer your question, any new fully assembled imaging products will simply be updated versions of what already exists. As long as a particular product is profitable on its own, it remains for sale, with constant review to reduce costs by subletting components, rationalizing assembly and abandoning unprofitable distribution channels. As long as products from the Devices business unit (sensors in the case of imaging products) can be utilized without re-designing existing finished assemblies, they will be implemented in Sony cameras, but don't expect them to enter markets where they don't already have a sustainable presence in and some current camera models will be discontinued, guaranteed. Sony is not an optical company, so any lenses without sufficient sales volume to get low enough prices from suppliers will be dropped, to be sold until existing inventory is gone. Realistically, without a huge existing base of lens system users like Pentax has with K-mount, it is unlikely that Tamron and Sigma will offer new lenses to pick up the slack.

Lenses for ILC's is even more of a mature market than ILC's themselves. If (and only if) there is sufficient sales volume to justify additional production runs, existing products will continue to be available for sale, but without Sony developing new bodies that encourage the purchase of new lenses, the business model for the optical side becomes obsolete. Sony wants to invest in imaging components, not finished products, so finished imaging products is entering a terminal business phase. Sony doesn't need to sell cameras to pay for the investment in sensors, and if they don't sell cameras they won't be selling lenses for long either. New sensor technology will no longer be held back (if, in fact it is currently being preferentially reserved for Sony cameras) from competitors to Sony imaging products.

It would be different if there was growth potential for the imaging products division, but obviously Sony has decided there isn't, there won't be, and any effort to grow their share in a declining market will negatively impact shareholder value. Imaging products are a cash cow, and as soon as the cow runs out of milk, it will be butchered. This was inevitable, there are too many players in the camera market, and some of those players are going to cut their losses and cash out, instead of playing until they have run out of money. Sony won't be the only company to do so, in fact some companies with smaller market shares and more limited opportunities to use components from other business units may exit the market completely before Sony does.

02-18-2015, 04:38 PM   #5
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It sounds like they are going to focus on taking costs out of current offerings. Go lean, I guess.

Ideas are always peculating but they may stay in "pencil on paper" mode for a while. They may use this leaning-out time to decide what the next big thing is going to be. Maybe we'll see a new sensor in 2017 or maybe even a successor to the A7?
02-18-2015, 05:08 PM   #6
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It suggests they believe they have the tech needed to remain competitive for 5 years or so. They can produce new models with improved sensors they develop, and add or subtract features to please consumers. They have several attractive platforms presently, so they may be correct. I await with baited breath testing of the 50 mp mirrorless.
02-18-2015, 05:30 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by RGlasel Quote
Sony won't be the only company to do so, in fact some companies with smaller market shares and more limited opportunities to use components from other business units may exit the market completely before Sony does.

I agree. From the numbers presented, the entire electronics wing will be going backwards in revenue - it looks particularly bad for the phone and TV divisions, but cameras should hang in there longer. Hope so ... I still haven't ruled out getting an A7, for cost reasons.
02-18-2015, 06:00 PM   #8
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"Innovation" is something of an overused word, I think. I'm not suggesting anyone here is misusing it, but I do see it used in places where the situation would be better described by less-grand words like "product development" or "design". "Innovation" should be reserved for the application of existing concepts in new ways, and Sony has innovated in only a few ways that I have seen, in recent years (the sensor-backed lenses being one of them). This is not to say that their products are in any way unworthy of consideration - far from it - but a lot of their output has been multiple product lines that have brought nothing really innovative to the market. While invention and innovation, by their nature, require considerable intellectual resource effort, so does development of multiple product lines that are frequently revisited and refreshed. The two sets of activities, though, require different skill sets, albeit overlapping in some areas. Consequently, I doubt we'll see much reduction in innovation, but probably less frenetic product launch cycles, which I think will be the case for most major imaging manufacturers in the medium term, with Ricoh/Pentax perhaps being the exception in that period.

The imminent launch of the Pentax 35FF body has caused me to put on hold any thought of buying into the A7 range (or the Fujifilm X-T1, or anything other than a high-IQ compact like the Sony RX1003, come to that).

02-18-2015, 06:35 PM   #9
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The only thing really left is a z-plane focus camera, which I wouldn't be surprised to see at some point.
02-19-2015, 12:25 AM   #10
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Innovation for innovations sake is pointless, many companies use the word innovation as if it has some magical properties to turn ordinary crap into something revolutionary.

The best thing for companies to do now is simply do what they do best, and what does Sony do best? make sensors - so that is where they should focus their efforts.

QuoteOriginally posted by konraDarnok Quote
The only thing really left is a z-plane focus camera, which I wouldn't be surprised to see at some point.
It has been done before. The Contax AX which used a moving film plane to focus. however, I will point out the Contax AX had serious issues with the focus requirements of lenses with focal lengths above 135mm.
02-19-2015, 01:48 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
The best thing for companies to do now is simply do what they do best, and what does Sony do best? make sensors
I disagree.

That's a similar argument to what economists term 'comparative advantage'. Which argues that, for example, Australia should just stick to growing sheep and being a quarry, because we have natural geographic and geological features that enable us to provide those goods at an advantage compared to other countries, like (for example) Singapore or Japan, that don't share our geography or geology. So stick with your 'natural' strengths, don't go beyond that, and just learn to fit in within the economic hierarchy.

In a related sense, if Sony stuck to just being a sensor fabricator, but stopped doing creative things with cameras on their own (regarding AF, exposure metering, low-light sensitivity etc), I think one would find they would also produce little innovation in sensors.
02-19-2015, 04:49 AM   #12
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The slide shows that projects aren't going to be funded the way they used to be. But the talented engineers are still there, they'll just have to be creative not only in their designs, but getting their ideas accepted by the bean counters.
02-19-2015, 06:45 AM   #13
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Here's a good breakdown of last night....


Sony is no longer an electronics company | The Verge
02-19-2015, 01:11 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Clicker Quote
Here's a good breakdown of last night....


Sony is no longer an electronics company | The Verge
Very sad. We consumers are poorer for the news.

They've had the temporary advantage over the last year or so of selling off company owned real estate, doing that traditionally un-Japanese thing of lay-offs and a very low yen, but their income models for the next few years are disappointing and possibly too optimistic.
02-19-2015, 01:22 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by clackers Quote
Very sad. We consumers are poorer for the news.
I saw that as good news. As usual the Verge has completely misinterpreted the decision.

Sony spun off the TV division into a subsidiary last year and it's been a good move.

Spinning of electronics as a subsidiary is what Sony should have done a lot time ago.

There are instances when "One Sony" actively hurts a division. Sony Electronics failed in the push for Super Audio CD partly because of opposition from Sony Music.

I remember one acrimonious internal meeting several years ago when Sony Music basically told the electronics division they were abandoning the format - this was right after DVD-Audio died so in theory SA-CD was ready to step in - just like Blu-Ray did when HD-DVD died (anyone remember HD-DVD?). Similarly the PlayStation division dropped SA-CD playback from PS3 for "cost reasons" - I have always wondered if it's because they didn't want to pay the internal transfer cost for licensing, otherwise it makes zero sense - Sony created the technology, Sony manufactured the optical drives, Sony builds the PS3 - there's basically a zero cost difference between a drive with SA-CD playback and one without - Sony at one stage bundled SA-CD optical transports into all the their DVD players - even the ones with no SA-CD playback capability.
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