Product Rumours and The Next Big Thing

Concept: 1 out of 5
Execution: 1 out of 5
Yeah, but: What do we have without anticipation?

The Long Version: We live in an electronic world, and one that's constantly changing. The first day of January's 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show saw forty-five new cameras introduced - and before winter ends there's still PMA in February and CIPA's show in Yokohama in March. The only real news to come out of the 45 new me-too buzzword-compliant press releases is the tidbit that both Sony and Olympus are finally moving to SD cards in their point-and-shoots. Otherwise it's just a collection of new numbers to remember, whether they're meaningless product names or meaningless product specifications.

Press releases that do nothing but announce upcoming announcements are a continuing source of annoyance for me. I have a hard enough time keeping up with the real cameras that actually exist to bother with the constant swirls of rumour and expectations. In November (of 2009) someone told me that they weren't going to buy a Nikon D700 because Nikon had announced that there would be a product announcement in early December. The purpose of this meta-announcement wasn't clear, but the rumour mill went into overdrive. Naturally, people were expecting a replacement for the D700 - with Nikon risking decimating their sales if ample replacement product wasn't ready - just weeks before christmas. It would be either the D700x, with 24 megapickles, or the D700s, with video. The D700x has been anticipated for longer, as people would like a high-resolution camera to undercut the sales of the top Nikon in the same way that they undercut the D3 with the original - and still only - D700. But then the video-recording D3s came out, with the same resolution as the D3, so now a smaller video-capable camera is needed. Exciting times, except that 720P video just isn't good enough any more, and anything less than 1080p will make people wait for the next one.

As the eighteen-month-old D700 remains Nikon's only small-bodied pro camera, I've read one web pundit saying that it's now too late for a simple x/s model bump, and a full-fledged model number increase is in order. No doubt people will continue to not buy a great camera that would do everything that they want simply because there might be another one some day. Personally, I don't understand the willingness to not take pictures between now and then: I know that there will be another strawberry crop in July, but I'll still eat while I wait for it. Naturally, if the tools available won't do the job, or aren't affordable, then find another solution or reframe the problem. People have been taking photos, and even making videos, for years now. They must have been doing it with something.

My biggest consolation is that for everyone who's refusing to buy the right tool now because there will eventually be a new one, there's someone else who's looking for the old model because they heard that it's better. I hear requests for the 40D, D40, and/or G10 on a weekly basis. Oh, and remember that December 2009 Nikon product announcement that was supposed to be an eagerly-but-prematurely expected camera? They were taking the $5000 AF-S 300mm f/2.8VR to version 2, and their 2.0x teleconverter from version 2 to version 3. Exciting stuff.

The champions of product anticipation, and home of the RDF since 1981, is the company formerly known as Apple Computer. They have an Apple Media Event - a term which currently generates 1.23 million hits on Google - scheduled for the end of January (of 2010). There's rampant speculation and eager anticipation, among other cliches, for an Apple Tablet. Apparently that's a new form of computer whose mere possibility makes stocks hit record highs. Regardless, an Apple Tablet is something that was anticipated all the way back to early 2006, when the crowd was wowed by the iPod Hi-Fi. It was even eagerly anticipated back in 2001 when we were calling them Personal Digital Assistants. I still remember the crushing angst of the rumour sites when Apple announced a going-nowhere knockoff of Creative Labs' Nomad instead of reviving the Newton. Who knew?

If only to finally make the experts predict something else, I hope that Apple does produce a tablet computer. But if they update the Apple TV, iPod Hi-Fi, or announce a revival of the LaserWriter, I'll enjoy that too. There's always going to be another Next Big Thing to look forward to, so it's no loss either way. I'll just keep on doing what I'm doing.


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