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Sony MVC-CD1000

(NOTE: This camera is not in stores yet.
Projected ship date is early August, 2000)

Page 2: The Triune Way to Media Nirvana

Look Ma, No Cables! The Triune Way to Media Nirvana...
Much to the dismay of their competitors, Sony has more or less dominated the US digital camera market over the last two years, thanks almost entirely to their Mavica product line. This has perplexed many enthusiasts and pundits (ourselves sometimes included), who've pointed to the Mavica models' generally higher prices and lower resolutions than competing models. "Geez," they/we would say to a new or prospective Mavica owner, "you could have bought a camera with twice the resolution for the same amount of money! What's the deal?" To which the Mavica owner would invariably reply something along the lines of: "I don't care, I just stick the floppy in my computer, and I've got my pictures. (And they're fine pictures for what I want to do with them.)"

There are of course other reasons people buy Mavicas, including the much longer than average zoom ratios on the lenses of many models. Ultimately though, the Mavica purchase decision almost always ended up being heavily influenced by the fact that the cameras stored their pictures on standard floppy disks. Why is this such an overriding issue with users? Understanding the importance of the floppy is essential to understanding how Sony has consistently managed to capture 30-40 percent of the entire US camera market year after year. At the root of the issue are three key factors that we've puckishly called the "Triune Way to Media Nirvana." Follow the three steps of The Way, incorporate them into otherwise reasonably well-designed digicams, and you too can rule the digicam marketplace. ;-) Here are the keys to Media Happiness:

1) Cost: Media of the Way must be cheap, preferably very cheap. Floppies satisfied this requirement admirably, as they've become almost a disposable commodity. This is important for several reasons. For individual users, the appeal of cheap media is obvious. Going on a long trip? No problem, just bring along a 50-pack of floppies, and you're all set. What's maybe less obvious is the appeal of cheap media in corporate, organizational, institutional, and educational settings. School generally aren't too keen on kids running around with cameras having a $100-200 chip in them that can be removed and lost or stolen. Even in a corporate environment, the risk of loss of expensive media is enough to keep otherwise worthy cameras off purchase lists. The fact that the Digital Mavicas used media that was so cheap as to be almost free was a huge benefit in a number of these high-volume market segments.

2) Capacity: Media of the Way must have plenty of capacity. Floppies fit this requirement pretty well in the early days of VGA resolution (640x480) cameras, when a "high quality" image occupied only 100K or so. Fourteen or fifteen "high quality" images on a disk? Cool! Need to shoot more? No problem, just stick in another twenty-cent disk and shoot another fifteen or so photos. This is the area that was becoming an increasing problem for the Mavicas though, as CCD resolution and image quality continued to rise. The latest floppy-based Mavicas could only store 4 images per floppy in their highest-quality mode, and even at that were using more image compression than many users wanted to settle for. Clearly something had to give, leading many to predict that Sony's market edge would eventually turn into a liability, given the Mavica's dependence on floppies.

3) Universality: Media of the Way can be used in any computer anywhere, any time, without special software or hardware to access it. This was the ultimate selling point for the Mavicas: Virtually every computer in the world has a floppy disk drive in it, and just about all of them can read standard DOS-formatted 1.44 megabyte floppies. You could therefore take an image-bearing floppy disk out of any Mavica, stick it into virtually any consumer-level computer, and immediately use the photos. No software, no cables, no muss, no fuss. People hate cables. People love floppies. People loved Mavicas and paid a premium for them. People bought hundreds of thousands of Mavica cameras for this simple reason: They could use their images. (And their friends could too.)

<< A CD-R Mavica! | FlashPath - An Interim Solution >>

Reader Comments!
So what do you think of the new Sony CD1000? Is it the future of digital? The last of the digicam dinosaurs? Would you buy one? Click here to leave a comment! (Read what's here, then add your own!)

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