On the cover of the current issue of "TWICE" (This Week in Consumer Electronics,) there's an ad for Nikon's cameras with the tagline "There's a Nikon for Everyone." It got me thinking about something I noticed at the Sony and Panasonic booths at last week's NAB conference. These companies have so many different camcorders and cinema cameras that even the people selling them can't keep track of all of them. For example, when I was in the Sony booth, I couldn't find the 35mm cinema cameras (NEX-FS100, FS700, F3, etc.) I asked one of Sony's salespeople where they were, and she said that all of the company's cameras were on display in the huge circular "camera pit" at the center of the booth. I'd walked around the entire pit and hadn't seen the 35mm cameras, so I went around again but didn't find them. It turned out that the 35mm cameras were in a completely separate section of the booth.
There are so many products that they overlap each other in price and functionality. The same is also true for still cameras from Canon, Nikon, Sony and others, and smartphones from Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola, Nokia, etc. Makers of notebook and desktop computers have the same problem--just look at the proliferation of models at HP, Dell and Acer. Manufacturers make so many models in order to avoid losing a sale, but they wind up confusing potential customers. Each of these products costs a significant amount of money to develop, manufacture and support. Resources that could be used to develop entirely new products are instead used to create minor product variations to fit into every conceivable price point.
Apple is a great example of a better approach to the problem. At any one time, Apple has a single line of smartphones, tablets, and notebook, all-in-one, mini and full-sized desktop computers, each of which is refreshed once a year. Apple continues to sell a single version of the previous year's tablet and smartphone (two years in the case of phones) at lower prices. Each computer line has four or five models, which vary by display size and processor. When a new computer line is launched, the previous line is discontinued. It covers all the price points, yet it's simple for consumers to understand and for Apple to sell. It also works well with Apple's strategy of making product announcements into newsworthy events.
Sony lost $6.4 billion last year; Panasonic lost $10.2 billion. They no longer have the money to invest in endless product proliferation--which might explain the relatively paltry number of new products shown by Panasonic at NAB. They, and companies like Canon, Nikon, Samsung, etc., would be well advised to focus on fewer, better products that are clearly differentiated from competitors and from each other.