Over on LinkedIn, Sean White argues that with the Watch, Apple is now in the business of disaggregating pieces of the iPhone so it only makes sense for Apple to launch a standalone digital camera next.
“The watch is an obvious step for Apple because it’s a familiar device that benefits from ensemble integration…. An Apple Camera would benefit from the same integration and design,” White writes.
Color me skeptical. Wearable technology is a growing category, so Apple’s decision to dip its toe (or is that wrist?) into that market makes sense. The standalone digital cameras business, on the other hand, isn’t growing (you can thank the iPhone for that).
But that’s not to say there isn’t a significant photo-related opportunity for Apple to capitalize on, one that would speak to both the casual snap-shooter and the professional: iCloud.
Apple has taken a relatively cautious and slow-moving approach to the cloud. iCloud originally debuted as a means of syncing files between Apple devices and only recently evolved into a proper file storage system. Nonetheless, iCloud remains immature and costly relative to its competitors. But Apple has something many of its cloud competitors don’t have: profit. A lot of it.
Let’s back up.
In our piece surveying long-term storage options for photographers, one theme came up again and again: the cloud had a lot of promise as a long-term archive, but the costs and risks associated with a cloud provider going out of business makes many users reluctant to entrust their archives to the cloud.
While cloud storage is definitely here to stay, picking the right cloud provider is still an exercise in stock-picking. Dropbox and Box, for instance, are both flush with venture capital, but Box isn’t profitable and Dropbox’s financials are a mystery. Google is profitable, but a business model built on data-mining isn’t exactly a welcoming home for important creative assets.
Apple, on the other hand, has more cash lying around than some nation states. With that money they could not simply build a better cloud storage service, they could guarantee a long-lasting one. What if Apple used a portion of this towering mountain of cash to back a “lifetime guarantee” for iCloud–a kind of financial promissory note to reassure users that images stored in Apple’s servers will remain accessible for generations? You could argue that this guarantee is implicit in iCloud today given that Apple is so wildly profitable, but this promise could be made explicit and indeed, be the principle differentiator for Apple versus its other cloud rivals.
Just how they could structure and back such a promise is beyond the scope of this post, but it seems like a challenge worth tackling.
So a standalone Apple camera sounds like a dead-end. A lifetime or more of secure cloud storage, on the other hand, sounds like the future.