It emerged yesterday that Apple had received a patent on an action camera. The price of GoPro’s stock promptly took a nosedive on the news. Here’s a quick three-point take on all this:
- Firstly, as others have rightly pointed out, Apple has patented all sorts of stuff over the years which has never materialized a a commercial product, and it’s entirely possible that this particular patent will never materialize in the form described as a product for sale from Apple. It’s most likely that it merely wanted to turn IP acquired from Kodak into a specific patent to both protect its investment.
- Secondly, I see little value in Apple creating an action camera per se – Apple’s forte is products which combine hardware and software in a tightly integrated way, and most cameras have minimal meaningful software. Action cameras are particularly simple from a software perspective, with all the heavy lifting done on computers after the footage is captured and transferred. I don’t see the value in adding the cost (and potentially weight and bulk) associated with greater computing power to an action camera. As such, I think it’s most likely that Apple will use this technology – it is uses it at all – in future iPhones and iPads, which are of course already among the most popular cameras in the world.
- Thirdly, I think this says far more about GoPro’s investors than it does about Apple. Yes, Apple has a tendency to disrupt (though not dominate) the markets it enters, and that’s often bad news for the incumbents. But what does it say about GoPro that its investors are this easily spooked? Has GoPro really built so little sustainable differentiation that a mere patent approval concerning Apple can wipe a significant percentage off the value of its shares? And if so, isn’t that – and not Apple’s potential entry – the real problem here?