As outdoorsmen (and women) many of us like to share our accomplishments with friends and family, sometimes the world. Whether that be our latest catch, latest kill, or the view from the top of the mountain we just climbed. A lot of the fun isn’t in the destination, but in the journey. And we like to share that, too.
GoPro was created by Nick Woodman more than 10 years ago when he wanted to record his surfing adventures. He started out by strapping a camera to his wrist. He soon figured out that other surfers wanted to do the same and eventually created the GoPro.
By any measurement, Woodman has created a very successful company. His sales have doubled every year since 2004, the first year of GoPro’s release. Last year, he sold 2.3 million cameras and made over half a billion (yes, with a ‘b’) dollars. For the first time last year, more of his cameras sold than Sony digital cameras within Best Buy stores.
But he’s about to meet a very large challenge to his market dominance. It’s called Google Glass.
For those of you not familiar, Glass is a wearable computer. It is slated to be released to the general public next year. As the name suggests, you wear it like a pair of glasses. It has a small screen that sits up and to the right of your right eye. Today, it has limited functionality like receiving text messages and emails, taking pictures and videos, and doing internet searches.
As a techie by day, I was able to try one of these on a few weeks ago. I was very impressed. I think it will change the way we take pictures and video.
GoPro’s claim to fame is to be able to capture video from the operator’s point of view. It is portable and waterproof. But it is also bulky and can be awkward in some situations. Woodman himself had a GoPro strapped to his chest when his two sons were born. Can you imagine how strange that looked?
Google Glass, on the other hand, is lightweight, comfortable, and unobtrusive. Because you are wearing it all the time, you can take pictures and video any time you feel there is something worth capturing. You don’t have to make sure you have it with you and you don’t have to pull it out and turn it on.
Glass operates by voice commands. So all you have to do is say, “Ok, Glass. Record a video,” and it will start recording It only records 10 seconds by default, but you can extend that with the tap of a finger.
As you can imagine, Glass will make taking pictures and video much more convenient and much more spontaneous. It will also be able to capture video where GoPro would be a lot more obtrusive. How funny would GoPro’s have looked in some of the Glass “How it Feels” video segments? My colleague, who owns the version of Glass I tried on, says he now takes a lot more pictures than he used to. He is able to capture a lot more of his kids’ precious moments where he wouldn’t have been carrying a camera in the past. Or been able to pull it out in time. Many moments that he would have missed are now saved for posterity. Even I found four instances of pics I missed in my last outing because I couldn’t get my camera out in time.
Glass does have its weaknesses, however. It can’t easily used to take “selfies,” it can’t be used on helmets, and while water resistant, it isn’t completely waterproof. I can see accessories showing up in the market to solve the selfie problem, but GoPro will likely maintain its leadership in the other niche situations.
Currently, the GoPros run from $200 to $400 retail. Google is targeting the $250 to $600 range for Glass. At the lower end, Glass is a no brainer for outdoor adventurers. Even at the higher end, it is a good value because it will have a lot more features than just taking pictures and video. It will basically be a smartphone on your head. Developers already have it in hand and will develop a lot of useful apps that will justify the higher price.
GoPro is a great idea. It came about at a time when people had a renewed interest in the outdoors and life activities. But with the emergence of Glass, its future is in doubt. I don’t believe GoPros will go away entirely. At least, not in the near future. It will still have its niche customers where Glass doesn’t make sense. But as Glass will replace GoPro in most situations. GoPro will have its work cut out for them to maintain sales. I think their sales will peak in 2013 and it will see a steady decline from there on in. Unfortunately, it may go the way of Blackberry by 2020.