Nikon looking to smartphones as profits shrink

Nikon looking to smartphones as profits shrinkThe mobile game could soon be welcoming a new player: no less a name than Nikon.

It's early days, but Nikon president Makoto Kimura has said the leading camera maker is looking at embracing the continued growth of the mobile industry, as it realises if it doesn't it could just get washed away by it.

Top camera brands like Canon and Nikon may still be doing well when it comes to 'serious' cameras, but the lower end compact camera market has increasingly been squeezed by ever-more-capable smartphone cameras.

Partly thanks to the latest wave of photo-loving smartphones from the likes of Apple, Nokia, Sony and HTC, point-and-shoot camera sales had dropped by around 25% year-on-year over the past 12 months, Kimura told Bloomberg in an interview last week.

But with the smartphone industry having seen handset shipments jump 46% last year, it's clear where the solution lies.

“The number of people taking snapshots is exploding by use of smartphones that sold 750 million or so last year and are still growing,” Kimura said. “We’ve centralised our ideas around cameras but can change our approach to offer products to that bigger market.”

And Kimura clearly expects that change to happen quickly – he's predicting a 53% rise in net income for the year that started in April, bouncing back from a 28% drop.

That said, one has to assume that'll be coming from elsewhere in the business, as it's hard to see how any plan to embrace a more mobile approach could reap immediate rewards.

Longer term, Kimura hinted that a new business team are currently working on developing products that should be on the market in in less than five years.

“We want to create a product that will change the concept of cameras. It could be a non-camera consumer product,” he hinted.

A Nikon smartphone? Doesn't sound any stranger than an Android camera did three years ago.

“Rapid expansion of mobile devices is a change in business environment given to us,” Kimura added. “Our task going forward is to find an answer to that change.”

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