A while ago I saw a blog post by someone I can’t remember, but the post was an image showing how some types of devices may begin to fade away while others come to the forefront. The first set of 3 comprised a DSLR, a compact camera and a camera phone. The second set included a Desktop PC, Laptop and an iPad.
This got me thinking about whether or not compact cameras can continue to have a place in the market in the years to come. DSLRs will always have a place for the high end professionals. The real question is if and when camera phones will really be good enough in quality to make digital compacts obsolete.
At the moment, most phones now come with a camera of some description. Most of them are around 2.0 in megapixels although some go all the way up to 12 in rare cases. The problem is though that even at high megapixel counts, the phones use small lenses and don’t offer optical zoom. Not only this but compact cameras offer high quality for low cost compared to smartphones which cost far more and take far lower quality pictures.
You can still take decent quality pictures with a low cost 2mp phone that will work just fine for facebook photos or things like that. However, for someone who is into photography enough to want to put high quality photos onto flickr or to print out for themselves, but who doesn’t have the money for even an entry level DSLR, a compact is still a very good option. Even the lowest level SLR camera is about 3 times the price of a good quality compact and that fact alone makes them still very viable in the market to me at this point. Plus, those same low cost compact cameras are also better or at the very least equal to even the best phone camera at this point.
Until camera phones take a huge step up in quality and a drop in price, there will continue to be a strong market for compact cameras. Even when that market starts to diminish, they will keep being sold for a long time regardless because there will still be a market worth going after with new products.
As far as the computer market, I feel like it’s more a matter of personal preference. Some may argue that iPads and other similar tablet devices will go some way to replacing laptops in the coming years, I just don’t see it happening. Yes, they do have some key advantages over laptops but I also feel that they fall short in some other key areas. They have great battery life, are easy to use and very portable. They are also less customisable, less powerful and there is less freedom as far as installing applications and dealing with content. Many people don’t appreciate Apple’s attempts to lock-down their devices as much as possible.
Laptops aren’t really under threat because many people are using an iPad as an accompanying device to their laptop. Laptops are also not necessarily just for portable use. Many people like myself never move their laptops and just prefer having a smaller unit on their coffee table that also allows you to travel with it when and if you require.
Desktops I think are also fairly safe. People I think in general will always favour a desktop computer for situations where they know they can accept being restricted to one place while using it. Because desktops are generally far better value for money and far easier to upgrade than laptops also works heavily in their favour.
With all this having been said, I think the future of computing is certainly getting more and more portable with smaller devices doing more things. It will be interesting to see if the momentum in portable computing that Apple have revolutionised with the iPhone can continue to such an extent where everyone will end up with essentially a powerful computer in their pockets.
These new categories of products aren’t necessarily going to overthrow the existing standards but will accompany them nicely for the time being. There’s definitely a reason why all of the current crop of standard form-factors have been around for so long and continue to be massively successful.
It will be interesting to come back to this topic in the future to see how things have changed and if so, for the better.