科技產物的興起與沒落,價值 Value 與價格 Price

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Mirrorless will be like Netbook by Thom Hogan

April 28 (commentary)--While all the camera makers are piling into the mirrorless market (Sony should be the next to announce, on May 11th), I expect in the end most of them will be a bit disappointed. The reason: it'll be a short trend.

IDC this week is showing CPU shipments for netbooks having declined as a percentage of Intel's deliveries this quarter, which would indicate that personal computer makers are scaling back plans for future netbook models. Other figures previously reported show that the big growth surge in netbook sales has already disappeared. Thus, netbooks may have hit their saturation mark in only a couple of years. Given that some of those Atom CPUs that IDC is tracking probably are going into tablet clones chasing the iPad, the trend may actually be worse than first appears. What's that have to do with mirrorless cameras? Keep reading.

It always struck me that netbooks weren't exactly the future of personal computing. Netbooks were different things to different people. They were a low-cost solution during economically tough times. They were a "lighter, smaller, more portable, good enough" solution for people who already had decent computers but wanted something convenient to do basic tasks like email and word processing on the road or in the living room. They were an entry point to computing for students. And let's face it, they were cute (at least as far as laptops go). But users of netbooks discovered they definitely had an upper end in terms of performance and ability.

Mirrorless cameras will follow that same course, I think: a brief rush as they lap up several overlapping and pent up demands: small, light, convenient, cute, and ultimately inexpensive. When Panasonic first announced the G1, they made claims about a large "new market" that sat between the compact camera and DSLR. Indeed, there were significant gaps between the most competent compact camera and the low end DSLR at the time, but that was an artificial gap: the camera makers simply hadn't pushed compacts or DSLRs hard enough to meet in the middle.

I wrote many years ago that I wanted a large sensor compact. Where is it? Still not here. I also wrote many years ago that Nikon and others needed small, low-end DSLRs that were essentially stripped of features, not full of auto-everything support for novices (e.g. the FM2n for digital, not a D3000). We still don't have those either. Basically, the camera makers missed the user need for smaller, lighter, more convenient cameras that were highly competent.

The mirrorless cameras we're seeing today basically bridge that gap, much like netbooks bridged the entrance gap between a Blackberry and a full-fledged notebook. Mirrorless cameras are small, light, and competent. But as it turns out, Panasonics "gap" is not as large as many in the industry think it is, and once every DSLR user has a highly competent "compact," much of the demand dries up.

The rest of the mirrorless demand comes from compct users who want more performance. Here, too, the camera companies got greedy and missed a key product slot. You can easily see it in today's Nikon lineup. Top Coolpix model? An S8000, which will run you about US$259. Bottom DSLR? A D3000, which is currently being discounted to US$499. Gee, I wonder why? The gap was too big. Both in terms of price and in terms of product size.

My guess is that we'll see the high compact, mirrorless, and low-DSLR markets merge into a more continuous spectrum of cameras at each company, perhaps even with a bit of overlap. But that will be overkill: there isn't enough demand there for every company to have a high end compact, two or more mirrorless models, and two or more low-end DSLRs and get volume growth for more than a year or two.

Pretty much like what happened with netbooks. Big surge because there really was a hole that needed to be filled. Surge ends the minute it is filled and people once again look at the performance they really need.

Thom 大師的評論都很具前瞻的,上面那一篇談到,The Mirrorless Camera 將會像 NetBooks 一樣沒落,趨勢將是高階隨身相機 (固定鏡頭)、無反光鏡可換鏡頭相機、低階入門反光鏡相機這三者的合流;就像 Netbooks (小筆電) 填補了人們需要輕便的這項需求,而當需求被滿足了,人們又開始追求效能優先的產品。

不過我覺得,科技產品的推出,是為了滿足人類生活的改變,藉由科技的進步而廠商在某個時點推出合乎某種需求的產品。對於廠商來說,各種產品的組成無非是電子零件的結合、外觀的設計、和使用者需求的滿足,要類比 Netbooks 和 Mirrorless Camera 而稱其必然失敗,倒不如說,Netbooks 和 Mirrorless Camera 提醒了人們,什麼才是夠用的需求,這才是這兩款產品的價值所在,而其後依隨科技演進而變革的商品,則是人類必然的進化罷了,因為人類的需求永遠無法完全被滿足,所以科技才會不斷進步。

在 Netbooks 之後的各種正在進行的演進,iPad、更大型的智慧手機、CULV,說穿了是在異中求同之後,又再同中求異,嘗試各種方法撈取各種可能的目標對象,而真正滿足當時需求價格比的,才會成為熱銷的商品,而在商業競爭中獲取最大利益,但是,不符多數需求的產品卻仍存在其價值,同樣的,也會繼續存在而有人使用,即使少量。

而產品,從來不是一次到位就成功的,有很多產品,因為時機點的錯誤,舉例來說,Contax ND 就算以現在的眼光來看在概念上都是優秀的旗艦級機種,但卻也是讓 Kyocera (Contax) 不敢再玩下去的最後代表作,原因就在時機點,壞就壞在過於前瞻,一次到位;所以最好的方法是隨時調整策略,追求產品生產的效益極大化,所謂策略,就現階段 Mirrorless Camera 來說,除了體積和價格方便進行目標對象的定位,隨著產品的銷售,游移不決的人很容易又跟著別人而採納這類的產品定位,而廠商賺到錢,才有能力嘗試其他創新的思維與設計,這是現實,但也符合現代科技的產品週期,極大化的汰換速度,以消費型態為主的思維才能持續勝出。所以與其說 Mirrorless Camera 終會消失,倒不如說,Mirrorless Camera 便攜高畫質的方向與定位是正確的,不同的產品型態不斷更新,但 Prototype 才是難能可貴。

最後的結果會是,整合性的商品當然會陸續出現,但訴求獨特單一的商品亦不會敗亡,原因在於人的選擇,不是簡單的效能和價格之比,而是價值與價格之比價值之於任一個獨立的個體,是再主觀不過的東西,有些人外觀就決定了一切,有些人品牌就決定了一切,有些人效能才是一切,有些人超過預算免談,有些人願意傾家盪產獲取,有些人為了某個 Unique 的特點而迷戀不已,有些人會因為自己的器材屬於小眾而缺乏安全感,有些人卻是愈冷門愈好。所以厲害的廠商會製造出手購買的目標對象,而不只是製造產品,當某產品的價值打動了某些人,從而讓他們誤以為非擁有不可,那麼商品就有很大的機會銷售成功,只要能控制產量和成本,從長尾理論來看也還是賺。

要不然,為什麼有人收藏老相機,卻不是愈來愈先進的數位相機,原因就在最新的產品對他而言並沒有產生價值。玩冷門品牌的器材,難不成要說是他的價值判斷有問題嗎?就說這是極為主觀的要素了!特別針對相機這塊市場而言,更是如此。

重要的是,是夠用就好,還是老子一定要攻頂,其實都沒有錯呀,價值觀和消費能力決定一切罷了。

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