Why Canon is the Microsoft of the Camera World


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Canon Microsoft

With Canon’s robust foothold — or ought to that be rising stranglehold — on the mirrorless market, you may simply argue it’s turning into the Microsoft of the digicam world. Microsoft is ubiquitous on the planet of private computing with its software program merchandise ever-so-pervasive in enterprise, college, and the house, from productiveness to communications and leisure. In actual fact, the core underlying working system of most PCs runs Microsoft Home windows (someplace round 75%).

Based in 1975, Microsoft hails from the Wild West period of computing as mainframes moved out of presidency departments and large firms, with the introduction of small, low-cost, residence units that have been programmable by fanatics. Its focus was on software program that would run programming code on these early machines, nonetheless, its large break got here in 1980 when IBM requested it to supply an working system for its new private pc. It didn’t make working programs, so purchased one referred to as 86-DOS, rebranding it MS-DOS and promoting a license to IBM, however retaining possession.

Whereas IBM had copyrighted the BIOS — that small little piece of code in your PC that interfaces between the {hardware} and the working system — no such restriction utilized to the working system itself as Microsoft owned it. As soon as the BIOS had been reverse engineered, Microsoft was free to promote MS-DOS to the world.

And it did.

After its preliminary public providing, a rising share value on the again of continued successes created three billionaires and round 12,000 millionaires from its workers.

Microsoft and Canon: Similarities

What makes Microsoft stand out on the planet of computing is its utter dominance in a variety of sectors. For instance, its 75% desktop PC market share (though that has dropped from 95% in 2009). In actual fact, for the reason that days of MS-DOS and the rise of IBM-compatible PC, Microsoft has had OS figures within the excessive 90%.

It’s additionally loved previous dominance with Web Explorer, Workplace, and Home windows Server. It has additionally traditionally not been a {hardware} firm — except the long-manufactured Microsoft Mouse — however branched out with the Xbox, in addition to its Floor units and HoloLens. And let’s not overlook the Nokia acquisition and Home windows Cell mistake.

Microsoft is ubiquitous, notably because it has re-imagined itself within the new period of subscription companies (or Software program-as-a-Service) and may be very a lot cloud-focused.

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In fact, it’s not pc software program that defines Canon, however cameras. Based in 1933, the enterprise is principally targeted round its optical and printing divisions, though it was initially a digicam producer and launched the Kwanon, Japan’s first 35mm focal-plane shutter digicam.

Canon is now a ¥3,513 billion (about $30 billion) revenue-generating behemoth with about 200,000 workers worldwide. It has expanded its enterprise to associated print and optical industries, which embody medical imaging and industrial purposes equivalent to lithography. It’s additionally extra uncommon amongst digicam producers in that it designs and manufactures its personal sensors.

Nonetheless, it’s Canon’s joint successes within the digicam and residential printer markets that actually make it stand out within the client sector. That is by no small measure resulting from its business-defining want to continually reinvent itself on the premise of innovation and high quality. It has by no means been one to let its previous successes hinder the way in which it pursues future merchandise. It is a troublesome path to tread and one which many different corporations have failed at. You wish to develop applied sciences quick sufficient to promote to the worldwide market, however not so quick that they’re usurped by different producers.

Canon launched a gradual stream of digicam expertise equivalent to its Serenar lenses, the Canonflex SLR, the F-1 SLR (with its accompanying FD-mount), and the AE-1 (incorporating a microprocessor), earlier than the discharge of the EOS system (together with the EF-mount). The place Nikon steadfastly supported the F-mount, Canon pushed lens designs to new limits. It was this relentless innovation that finally led it to surpass Nikon because the main digicam producer within the Nineteen Nineties.

Whereas we could be all in favour of digicam innovation, it now solely accounts for 19% of Canon’s web gross sales and printing is much and away crucial side of its enterprise at 55%. That mentioned, Canon remains to be a pressure to be reckoned with and — relying upon the way you rely the numbers — has round 40% of the digicam market by each gross sales and income. It is a altering dynamic that’s seeing it refocus away from DSLRs and built-in cameras to extra worthwhile mirrorless fashions.

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A 40% market share is on no account equal to the 75% desktop market that Microsoft has, nonetheless, this doesn’t replicate that almost all computing is undertaken on smartphones which makes iOS and its varied derivatives globally vital. And naturally, smartphones additionally account for the overwhelming majority of cameras offered right this moment. Of their particular markets, each Microsoft and Canon are a dominating pressure and nobody can deny that their market share relies, at the least partly, on producing high quality merchandise that individuals need.

Canon has efficiently used expertise to attraction to key markets with the intention to leverage success additional down the market chain. For instance, the discharge of the EF-mount made its merchandise extra favorable to working professionals that constructed widespread success and trickle-down to extra consumer-focused merchandise. This got here at a time of mass-market growth which it was capable of make the most of, dramatically rising its enterprise. And whereas Nikon got here out with the primary absolutely built-in DSLR, it was Canon that handle to capitalize on filling out its vary, once more with trickle-down.

There are two core markets — client and enterprise/skilled — for each Canon and Microsoft which have totally different motivations and desires, which ends up in the event of various merchandise.

For the buyer maket, Canon might be seen as a “protected guess” when shopping for a digicam, with shoppers paying a premium for one thing that “simply works.” This client groupthink has been epitomized with its new mirrorless fashions which have ramped up from virtually no gross sales to digital equivalence with Sony in a matter of some quick years.


Microsoft is all too accustomed to technological innovation with the intention to keep its market place and revenue streams. Whereas Home windows could be dominant it’s not the principle supply of revenue, that is now being pushed by its subscription companies.

On the “skilled” finish, Canon after all goes after skilled photographers and for Microsoft, it targets firms and companies. Enterprise gross sales drive revenue and penetration into wider client markets, with Home windows more and more only one platform for delivering this service. In actual fact, Microsoft has more and more been venturing on to macOS, iOS, and Android with the intention to promote extra licenses and, in a change of coronary heart, embracing using open-source software program (after the notorious Steve Ballmer “Linux is a most cancers” quote). Microsoft, likewise, is a protected guess.

The Darkish Aspect

In fact, Microsoft’s success hasn’t been totally with out incident, not least the Division of Justice anti-competitive conduct lawsuit associated to monopolistic practices. It was the rapaciousness of Microsoft’s enterprise dealings with the intention to keep management of working system licenses — and later different product classes — that caught the attention of the Division of Justice. The bundling of Web Explorer was the straw that broke the camel’s again and Microsoft settled in 2004. The investigation highlighted what was internally generally known as “embrace, lengthen, and extinguish” (EEE) when it entered new product classes, one thing acquainted to Google opponents. Many distributors and their merchandise have fallen by the wayside — WordPerfect and SmartSuite — from using such ways which have been designed to compete on value, lengthen capabilities, then intentionally lock in customers.

Canon Lenses as of 2021

There’s nothing to counsel Canon behaves like this, though all digicam producers have tried to lock their shoppers into proprietary lens mounts with the intention to enhance lens gross sales, the rationale why third-party producers equivalent to Sigma have reverse-engineered mount specs. Nonetheless, in a fashion just like open-source, even that is altering with teams just like the L-Mount Alliance.

A Microsoft Future?

So does Canon have the same future to Microsoft mendacity forward? Microsoft’s fortunes have been tied to altering its enterprise mannequin and adapting to new client markets, whereas on the similar time sustaining dominance in its conventional markets. That is true of Canon because it shifts its wider enterprise into associated print and imaging industries, concentrating on higher business-to-business transactions fairly than direct-to-consumer markets.

Nonetheless, its DNA is based in cameras and right here it’s transferring quick to construct out a world-class mirrorless system that can final a technology. And it’s succeeding, which ought to pay dividends as revenue is clearly flowing from this technologically superior space. This technique is emphasised because it shutters built-in digicam manufacturing by means of the closure of its Zhuhai manufacturing facility; the discharge of its first APS-C RF-mount digicam raises questions over the way forward for its EOS-M line and its DSLRs extra usually. Canon is adapting and profiting from a shifting panorama.

So if Canon is the Microsoft of the digicam world, who then is the Apple equal?


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