07 Oct 2013

An open source camera? How's that going to work? Featured

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I genuinely feel excited about the Apertus Axiom concept, especially having met Sebastien Pichelhofer and his colleagues who are the founders of this ambitious but, I think, well grounded project

I have absolutely no idea whether it will succeed because that all depends on the reaction of potential customers out there, and on the developers of not only software but quite specific hardware that will need to be designed to get this camera beyond an early prototype.

Nobody is going to get anything for nothing with this camera. You can't duplicate hardware at no cost. But, actually, you can't duplicate software at no cost, either. Or, more accurately, you can't write it for no cost. Just because it's so easy to duplicate software programs, it's very easy to forget that software takes time and effort to write.

Two sides to Open Source 

What's wonderful about Open Source software is that it is open in the sense that there are no secrets, and sharing knowledge is enshrined in the idea of open software.

That's all fine and laudable, but where it falls down is that most successful business models are either based on keeping their "Secret sauce" a secret, or on something else that is completely unrelated to the software but is merely enabled by it. Whichever way you look at it, it's not easy to make money from a product that you give away.

So I would see the Axiom project as "open" in the sense of transparency rather than freedom-from-having-to-pay-ness. But what an opportunity this is.

Changing Times

Do you remember when there was a fashion for making cheap TVs with built-in VHS decks or, more recently, DVD players? There was always some resistance to buying these things because they were undoubtedly very convenient, but equally undoubtedly likely to go wrong. Why would you want to buy even a half-decent TV mated to a device that was inevitably going to reduce the life of the hybrid product?

And although it might not feel like this, it's going to be the same with cameras. Eventually, we'll be saying "why would you want to buy a camera with all the parts from the same manufacturer?".

Or, perhaps not. There are very good arguments on both sides.

Vertical Integration

Vertical integration - essentially making everything from the small parts to the software that knits everything together - is how Apple manages to make products that people love (because of their perceived high quality) and yet still make a decent margin on them. And it's why Apple's software - their operating systems and their drivers - work so well together. It's because they're designed together to work together.

You can't say that for Windows, but then Windows has a much harder task, which is that it has to work across such a huge range of products that it would be impossible to take them all into account in advance. Given this, it's surprising - and a huge achievement - that Windows works as well as it does.



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David Shapton

David is the Editor In Chief of RedShark Publications. He's been a professional columnist and author since 1998, when he started writing for the European Music Technology magazine Sound on Sound. David has worked with professional digital audio and video for the last 25 years.

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