Mon, Jul 01, 2013 - Page 14 News List

Digital camera makers diversify to stay relevant

GET THE PICTURE:With camera-enabled phones and tablets dominating the market, makers of digital cameras are widening their product lines to avoid obsolescence

Staff writer, with CNA

Taiwan’s digital camera manufacturers are trying to enter new markets to make up for falling sales caused by the growing popularity of smartphones and tablets equipped with camera functions, market analysts said on Saturday.

Hoping to capitalize on their existing optics technology, digital camera suppliers are extending their reach to new product lines, such as gaming consoles, laser televisions, medical devices, face recognition technology and camera lenses for industrial automation, the analysts said.

Some digital camera makers are also upgrading their technology and getting involved in areas like ultra-pixel lens development, or developing value-added devices such as products that have Internet communications functions, they said.

Global shipments of digital cameras are expected to fall 20 percent from a year earlier to 70 million units this year, as smartphone sales rise.

That would be a 5 percent steeper decline than the 15 percent recorded last year, when digital camera shipments fell below 100 million units.

By contrast, smartphone shipments for this year are expected to rise 32.7 percent from a year earlier to 958.8 million units, according to researcher International Data Corp.

The diminishing digital camera market has particularly hurt companies such as Ability Enterprise Co (佳能), Altek Corp (華晶科), Asia Optical Co (亞光) and Premier Technology Co (普立爾), which specialize in manufacturing digital cameras for consumer use, forcing them to find alternative sources of revenue, analysts said.

Ability has responded by entering a niche market: high-end and ultra-thin camera modules used in digital cameras, smartphones, tablet computers, security control systems and cars.

It has also begun to produce sporty cameras that are waterproof, shockproof and dustproof to strengthen its competitive edge. In addition, it has also enabled some of its camera products to have Internet communications capabilities to broaden consumer appeal.

Altek said it has extended its reach beyond digital camera production since 2006 to manufacture optical devices to be used in cars, medical equipment, face recognition devices and surveillance monitors.

The company said it expected its non-digital camera business to account for 30 percent of sales this year, up from 15 percent last year, to make up for the shrinking digital camera market.

Asia Optical said it has launched a 50X zoom camera model that has received orders from US and European distributors such as Wal-mart Stores Inc and Argos Ltd.

Like Altek, it has also supplemented its digital camera production with other product lines, including gaming consoles, laser TVs and family theater products.

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