"People Will Never Buy It"
It has been said before that traditional imaging retailers are accustomed to knowing their products, knowing the product markets they reside in, giving full demos, answering customers' questions, and above all, encouraging sales by predicting customers' needs and providing helpful insights. This is in distinction to those who expect customers to browse shelves and racks all by themselves, decide what they need, and obediently present their payment information to the sales associate before they finally go away.
Knowing these two extremes still doesn't prepare one, completely, when the latter asserts itself. "Howdy," we told an exhibitor at another media-only event during CES, "our readers sell photographic services and equipment, and I'm curious to see if yours is among the interesting new lines they can expand into…."
"Their customers will never buy our product," interrupted the rep at the booth. "Oh?" we asked. "Why?" "Because the screen is too small," replied the rep. "They would never accept their photos and videos on a screen this small."
How's that for salesmanship?
Of course, his product wasn't originally conceived as a photo/video playback device. It's just that so many others in his product group have added photo/video display capability because…well, because, why not? Making the addition costs very little at the factory and becomes a value-added feature in the marketplace. Maybe the playback screen is too small for 50 percent of the market. Is that any reason to disregard the other 50 percent of the market?
The product in question was bustin' out all over at the CE show. Everybody seemed to have one. A GPS automotive navigation system, that is. This would be an odd product for an imaging outlet to stock—automotive stores, sure, or CE supermarkets—except more and more models are appearing with SD card slots and user-programmable content—JPEG photos and/or DVD movies. The screens may be small compared to the yard-wide plasmas, but the GPS manufacturers are thinking like this: you don't need the navigation function for the next three hours, because you'll be spending that time on this particular interstate. In the meantime, would the kids in the back kindly shaddup? Here, amuse yourselves with our snapshots on this small screen.
Everybody's Doing It
Magellan, for example, one of the pioneers of the field, added multimedia playback to their Crossover series months back, providing "a MP3 player and photo viewer for added entertainment value as a travel companion," in their words. It would be one thing if the upstarts in the field added doodads to make themselves competitive with the established lines, but Magellan is one of the established lines.
These units use SD cards and JPEG files. Is there a way that ties in with the "digital film" department, or processing services? That's for the retailer's imagination to sort out.
Where our imagination starts to whirr is when cameras start to appear in such devices, which they have in the case of the Navman NavPix—a GPS navigation system with a 1.4MP camera built in. The system enables users "to easily compile their own NavPix library. With the push of a button, digital images, coded with the exact latitude and longitude of the location—in short, the GPS information from the Navigation system—are added to the device. NavPix images loaded on [an] N-Series device can be edited with labels and additional destination information."
So you were driving along and could stop for only a few moments, but there was a great house for sale as a vacation home. Or a flea market opening next week, specializing in your favorite collectible. Or a restaurant you'd like to try someday, if you remember its name. Or a splendid scenic vista that you'd like to photograph properly with your 10-megapixel camera, if you can find your way back. With your own GPS pictures, you can find your way back. The navigation system can show you and tell you, turn by turn.
Is this a photo specialty item? That probably depends on the photo specialty dealer. Is there something in your shop, that's not in your competitor's, that could make it a go?
Or was the rep at the show right after all that "People will never buy it?" We're testing one of the Navman models, and will opine further after assessing the results. But we have a good feeling about it.
Speaking of photographic appliances for cars, Roadmaster has a backup camera that lets you see what's behind you when driving in reverse. The principal virtue touted for the device is that it reduces the chances of backing over the kids as they play in the driveway. But in truth, there are more than kids behind you to worry about. Yours truly drives a Suburban, for example, the kind with doors on the back, whose aft visibility is quite restricted. The camera, mounted at the license plate, wired into the backup lights of the taillight assembly (so it's "on" only while the vehicle is actually going backwards), gives a much better impression of whether the rear bumper is about to peel the hood off that Mini Cooper back there, otherwise invisible.
Cameras for the Age of Anxiety
The Department of Homeland Security has created a windfall market for security-systems manufacturers, where every transportation hub has to be observed from 50 different angles. The resulting economies of scale seem to affect the consumer market as well, as DIY home-security systems—say, four outdoor infrared-reading video cameras and a motion-activated digital video recorder—can be bought at retail for under a grand.
We see such systems at the Home Depot and such, but do their sales associates (when you can find one) know what to say about wireless infrared CCTV systems? More likely they could explain a router—the kind Dad used to use.