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SanDisk novinarska konferenca / Photokina 2004 (SLO / ENG)

Avtor:Matjaž Intihar
12.10.2004 19:43
Eli Harari, ustanovitelj in najvišji mož enega najprodornejših proizvajalcev spominskih kartic SanDisk.

 

»Digitalno revolucijo fotografije spremljam že od vsega začetka vendar je trajala dlje kot sem pričakoval.« S temi besedami je novinarsko konferenco začel Eli Harari, ustanovitelj in najvišji mož enega najprodornejših proizvajalcev spominskih kartic SanDisk.

Ob tej ugotovitvi sem se lepo nasmejal ker sem le par ur pred tem (pa tudi kasneje) poslušal in opazoval ljudi, ki si želijo da bi revolucijo kar najhitreje zatrli.

Kar težko je verjeti kako nasprotna so lahko mnenja in kako visok zid bi nekateri radi postavili okrog sebe. Kljub temu pa lahko razumem ene in druge. Nove korporacije kot je SanDisk doživljajo neverjetno rast, stari giganti pa propadajo in se smilijo samemu sebi. Morda se sliši zlobno vendar bo kar držalo. Eli Harari zatrjuje da so to leta, ko je ljudi najlažje prepričati v nakup. Smo v zgodni fazi neslutene rasti in kdor v tem času trmasto vztraja na tradiciji, nostalgiji in dobrih starih časih bo kmalu pozabljen (če slučajno še ni). Žal nekateri nimajo prav dosti volje po prilagajanju in končujejo na smetišču zgodovine. Zadnja med mnogimi je Bronica.

 

 

V sodelovanju s Toshibo gradijo veliko tovarno, ki bo omogočila za vsaj 200% večjo proizvodnjo.

 

Kakšno rast doživlja SanDisk pove že dejstvo, da je njihova delnica v dveh letih zrasla z 9$ na dobrih 85$. Prav zdaj gradijo novo tovarno v sodelovanju s Toshibo (vsaka si bo lastila polovico proizvodnje) s katero bodo lahko povečali proizvodnjo za več kot 200%.

Za razmislek - že sedaj naredijo okrog 1 miljon spominskih kartic na teden. Leta 1999 je letni dohodek prvič presegel številko 200 milijonov dolarjev. Leta 2003 pa so že presegli milijardo dolarjev prometa.

 

DRUGA DIGITALNA REVOLUCIJA (2003 – 20??)

 

V določenem smislu smo ravno na tej konferenci izvedeli najbolj presenetljive podatke, ki jih fotografska podjetja le s težavo priznajo. Brez dvoma se jih zelo dobro zavedajo, nekateri pa tudi s pridom izkoriščajo s preusmerjanjem in dopolnilnimi programi. Govorim o izjemni rasti popularnosti fotofonov in podobnih multimedijskih naprav, ki nezadržno prodirajo v realnost fotografije. Morda vam trenutni vtis o obupni kvaliteti tako posnete fotografije še ne dela skrbi toda pomislite na začetna leta digitalnih fotoaparatov. Razvoj gre v isto smer. Pri nas prihajajo v prodajo fotofoni z enim megapikslom, na japonskem že nekaj časa kupujejo fotofone z dvema ali celo tremi. Poznajo že take s petimi.

Po SanDiskovih podatkih bo število prodanih enot naraslo za dobrih 300 miljonov (s sedanjih 170) v treh letih. Od tega jih bo kar 55% imelo resolucijo večjo od 2 megapiksla, takih s 4-5mp pa bo skoraj 10%.

Leta 2007 napovedujejo umirjanje prodaje digitalnih fotoaparatov okrog številke 100 miljonov enot letno hkrati pa neustavljivo rast prodaje fotofonov, ki naj bi se takrat nahajala že okrog številke 500 miljonov enot letno.

Morda še z drugimi besedami. »Druga« digitalna revolucija bo za svoj razvoj potrebovala približno 3-4 leta v primerjavi z osmimi leti kolikor so potrebovali digitalni fotoaparati za svoj prodor med množice.

Kot sem že prej omenil – kdor se ni pripravljen prilagajati novim trendom bo hitro pozabljen. Mnogi, naprimer fotolaboratoriji bi že sedaj morali uvajati določene spremembe oziroma vsaj zelo resno pričeti z razmišljanjem v tej smeri. Ne pustite da vas prehiti tudi druga revolucija!

 

 

V zadnjih petih letih promet strmo narašča.

 

 

Skupaj z izboljšavami v tehnologiji optike bo kvaliteta slike brez dvoma narasla. Takrat bo marsikdo opustil nižji razred fotoaparatov in tega se vsi zavedajo. Nekateri se preusmerjajo, drugi trend nameravajo izkoristiti na tak ali drugačen način. Na sejmu je bilo še najbolj opazno prepričevanje v nujnost, morda celo zabavnost tiskanja in ogledovanja na vseh mogočih napravah. Še SanDisk je z navdušenjem predstavil svoj Photo Album. (kmalu dobimo na test!).

 

 

 

Četrtletni podatki kažejo veliko rast. Vsako prvo četrtletje kaže na izenačenost z zadnjim četrtletjem prejšnjega leta.

 

THE NEED FOR SPEED (& CAPACITY)

 

Pa pojdimo še v malenkost bolj tehnične vode. Na konferenci so tudi v živo predstavili najavljene nove generacije spominskih kartic. Serija za zahtevne amaterje in profesionalce Ultra II je pridobila na gigabajtih in tako dosega kapacitete kar 8GB pri obstoječi hitrosti 10-9 MB/s. Zanimiva rešitev je tudi stikalo, s katerim v karticah ustvarimo particije in tako omogočimo uporabo tudi v starejših kamerah, ki drugače ne podpirajo višjih kapacitet.

Za najzahtevnejše, ali pa najbogatejše, so predstavili novo serijo Extreme III z doživljensko garancijo in prioritetno podporo. Kartica je z uporabo silikonskega polnila narejena da preživi najhujšo zlorabo tudi pri temperaturah -25°C ali 85°C. Pa kljub temu odpornost ni njena glavna odlika saj obstajajo tudi kartice namenjene industrijski rabi, ki zmorejo še kaj več. Več o tem kasneje.

Največji preskok so naredili pri hitrosti branja in zapisovanja z tehnologijo ESP, ki sedaj presega mejo 20MB/s ali dvakrat več kot najbližji zasledovalci. Po zagotovilih SanDiska in znanega preiskuševalca CF kartic Rob Galbraitha, je to hitrost, ki je nobena od sedanjih vrhunskih dSLR kamer ne doseže. Lahko se vprašamo kje je potem korist višje hitrosti?

Zaenkrat samo pri prenosu na računalnik česar bodo še najbolj veseli uredniki, ki nestrpno čakajo med prenašanjem vseh tistih gigabajtov na delovni računalnik, da končno lahko pričnejo z delom. Vendar tudi v tem primeru ne zadostuje kar vsaka škatla tam pod mizo. Za doseganje te hitrosti trenutno poskrbi samo najboljša oprema od diskov do čitalcev.

Še vedno se vam morda zdi, da je višanje hitrosti nesmiselno toda pomislite na prihodnost. Če bo proizvajalcem kamer uspelo povišati hitrosti prenosa bi lahko podatke shranjevali kar neposredno na kartice brez vmesnega pomnilnika. Kaj iz tega pridobimo uporabniki? Kaj pravite na neomejeno serijo fotografij pri nekaj posnetkih na sekundo?

Opomba: zgornja trditev je domneva, o realističnosti bodo morali več povedati proizvajalci kamer.

 

 

SanDisk ima izreden tržni delež.

 

 

Obe spominski enoti lahko vstavimo v najnovejšo DSLR kamero.

 

SHOOT & STORE

V popolnoma drugo smer pa so zapeljali s serijo Shoot & Store. To je serija spominskih kartic vseh možnih formatov minimalnih kapacitet s katerimi želijo uporabnike prepričati da je fotografiranje na digitalca povsem enakovredno fotografiranju na film.  Kartice bodo na voljo v vsaki trgovini ali trafiki, ko jih zapolnimo do konca jih odnesemo do fotolaboratorija in potem shranimo v kakšen predal ali škatlo. Razlika v filozofiji je predvsem v enkratni uporabi vsake kartice. Ko napolnimo eno (shranimo lahko do 100 fotografij) kupimo naslednjo in naslednjo....tako kot filme, brez potrebe po računalniku. Drugi aduti s katerimi ciljajo na kupce je nizka cena (10 oz. 15$) in dostopnost v skoraj vsaki trgovini v nasprotju z dosedanjo prakso, ko kartice dobimo samo v bolj specializiranih trgovinah.

Odzivi na SanDiskovo potezo so različni. Konkurenca, kot mi je uspelo izvedeti med pogovori, zastopa dokaj enotno stališče. Večinoma so mi zatrjevali, da je to samo praznjenje stare zaloge oziroma prevelika produkcija kar deloma priznavajo tudi pri SanDisku čeprav direktnega odgovora ne želijo podati.

Na tem mestu moram izrecno poudariti da se Shoot & Store kartice prav nič ne razlikujejo od klasičnih. Še vedno lahko vsebino enostavno pobrišemo in uporabljamo naprej. Razlika je v tem da SanDisk tega od vas ne pričakuje. Od kupcev želijo da kupujejo vedno nove, stare pa shranijo.

Moje mnenje je povsem pragmatične narave. Že sedaj ljudje izgubljamo CDje s fotografijami, že sedaj dostikrat ne vemo kam smo določeno stvar shranili, že sedaj nas skrbi dolgotrajna obstojnost trenutnih medijev za shranjevanje in kaj se bo zgodilo z novimi. Kdo nam lahko zagotovi, da so podatki shranjeni na flash karticah dolgotrajno obstojni? Kartico še toliko lažje nekam založimo?!

Po pogovoru s predstavnikom podjetja DATA RESCUE, ki se ukvarja z reševanjem podatkov na poškodovanih karticah, je za velike težave dovolj že kratek stik ali pa neko močnejše magnetno polje. Puff...

Sam se za tovrstno shranjevanje ne bom odločil dokler me nekdo ali nekaj ne prepriča v nesmotrnost mojih dvomov. Kljub vsemu me v tem trenutku še najbolj muči del naravovarstvenika v meni. Mar ni ravno ponovna uporabnost spominskih kartic ena najprivlačnejših lastnosti digitalne fotografije?

 

 

Na grafu lahko opazimo kako pomemben je za proizvajalce spominskih kartic trg mobilnih telefonov.

 

 

V veliki raziskavi, ki je obsegala kar 50 milijonov uporabnikov se opazi, koliko hitreje se nova tehnologija "prime" med uporabniki. Za radio se je potrebovalo kar 38 let, da je bil sprejet med večino uporabnikov. Za najnovejše mobilne telefone s kamero pa bo ta čas samo 3,5 let.

 

 

Za SanDisk je krepko najpomembnejši trg mobilnih telefonov. Vsi novi telefoni s foto kamero bodo potrebovali dodatno spominsko enoto.

 

 

Že v letu 2007, bo že dve tretjine fotofonov z možnostjo zajema fotografije. Med njimi več kot polovica z minimalno 2 milijona točkami.

 

 

Samsung je med prvimi ponudil fotofon z tremi milijoni točk, 3X-nim zoom objektivom, ki ga proizvajalec Pentax uspešno trži med mini kompaktnimi kamerami in mini SD 32MB spominsko enoto.

 

 

Rast prodaje digitalnih foto kamer in fotofonov. Foto kamere bodo leta 2007 dosegle svoj vrhunec 100 milijonov enot. Do tega leta pa bo med uporabniki že okoli 500 milijonov fotofonov.

 

 

Fotofoni z možnostjo zajema videa. Rast prodaje teh naprav pomeni zaradi potreb po večjem spominu tudi večjo rast pri proizvodnji spominskih enot. Na konferenci so nam povedali, da že sedaj obstajajo fotofoni s katerimi bi brez težav posneli konferenco in jo nato predvajali v zadovoljivi kakovosti na TV. Seveda pa bo preteklo še nekaj časa, da bo tehnologija pristopna in uporabna tudi pri nas.

 

 

V letu 2006 bo že 55% mobilnih telefonov imelo možnost snemanja podatka na izmenljive spominske kartice. Glede na dejstvo, da je slovenski trg izredno dojemljiv tako za digitalne foto kamere kot nove tehnologije v mobilni telefoniji, so te številke zelo realne tudi za naš trg.

 

 

Da pa nam na konferenci SanDisk niso govorili samo o fotofonih, govori tudi ta graf. Za njih je foto trg zelo zanimiv. Saj se prav tu med množico uporabnikov zahteva zahtevnejša tehnologija, predvsem pa spominske enote z večjimi kapacitetami in hitrostjo zapisa. V letu 2004 se predvideva prodaja dva milijona DSLR kamer. V letu 2007 pa že skoraj šest milijonov DSLR kamer.

 

 

Spominske kartice so z današnjo tehnologijo zmogle zapis na spomisnko enoto cca. 9 MB/sek.

 

 

SanDisk je z novo tehnologijo ESP dosegel veliko večjo pretočnost podatkov. Danes jim ta tehnologija že omogoča prenos 25MB/sek.

Eli Harari, founder and CEO of SanDisk

 

»I've been closely following the digital revolution from the very beginning and it took longer than I anticipated.” Those words marked the start of the press conference. Those were the words by Eli Harari, founder and CEO of SanDisk, that I remember the most from Photokina. The memory of a conversation only hours before the conference was still very alive and it made me chuckle. There we were, hearing “Viva la Revolution!” when there are still many people trying (or hoping) to stop the revolution in its tracks. Digital is baaaaad… or so they say. Wake up! It has come and (almost) gone. We’re in for another one very soon. But more on that later.

What I want to say right now is that I understand both sides. Companies like SanDisk exploit the situation; they claim it is the best time in history to sell to consumers, making large sums of money while on the other side there are traditional corporations barely staying alive, most of them feeling sorry for themselves. It may be cruel but it’s true. In the end, no matter how you look at it, these are the early stages of a phenomenal growth cycle and those still trying to hold on to tradition and good old times will soon be forgotten (if they haven’t gone under already). Bronica is just one of latest reminders.

 

A new plant built in cooperation with Toshiba should increase production output by 200%

 

The incredible success of SanDisk is best expressed in growth rate of their shares. They’ve gone from 9$ to 85$ per share in just two years. Nobody is expecting this to be a constant rate (and it hasn’t been, current price per share is around 30$) but you get the picture. They’re also building a new production plant in cooperation with Toshiba (each company takes 50% of production) which will further increase their production by over 200%. Food for thought – they’re making roughly 1 million units per week as it is.

 

 

SECOND DIGITAL REVOLUTION (2003-20??)

 

To a certain extent it was the SanDisk press conference where we learned the most interesting data. Little things that traditional photography (or imaging as they prefer these days) companies have a hard time admitting although I'm sure they are very much aware of them. Some are actually trying to make a difference for themselves with restructuring, reanalyzing their market approach as well as complementary products and services. Of course I'm talking about so called feature phones and similar multimedia devices that are quickly becoming the reality of mass market photography. Perhaps you believe the current levels of quality doesn’t pose a substantial threat to traditional forms of photography but how is it different from early years of digital cameras? To paraphrase something I once heard on MTV of all places – whoever said progress is a slow process wasn't talking about these devices. In Europe we're seeing megapixel feature phones; in Japan you can already buy two or even three megapixel models.

SanDisk expect the sales of feature phones to rise by over 300 million units per year in the next three years (from current 170 million per year level). 55% of these will have a resolution greater than 2MP and almost 10% will boast 4-5MP.

In 2009 they expect the sales of digital cameras to level off at around 100 million units per year while feature phones continue to grow at an incredible rate and should, by then, reach 600 million units per year.

Perhaps a different approach for those that don’t like figures... the “second” digital revolution will develop in three to four years compared to eight years it took digicams to become mainstream. All along you have to keep in mind the second revolution is going to be many times bigger than the first!

As I mentioned earlier, those that refuse to reconsider their priorities and accept the new trends will soon be forgotten. Many, photo labs included, should start making some changes in their business or at least start thinking about it seriously. Don’t get left out the second time around!

 

Increasing annual growth rate

 

Together with advancements in optical technology the quality of final image will increase. Many consumers will switch over from low end digicams and everyone is aware of it. At Photokina we could see companies trying to open up new markets, adapting to trends and exploiting them in one way or another. Perhaps the most prevalent was the attempt to persuade customers into necessity of printing, the fun of printing your photos or viewing them on various devices. Even SanDisk introduced their own Photo Album.

 

Expanding market revenue growth

 

THE NEED FOR SPEED (& CAPACITY)

 

Let's venture into more technical side of things (relative I guess). We witnessed an introduction of three exciting new flash card series each serving its own market share.

For the advanced amateur and pro we have the Ultra II series that gained some weight in gigabytes and now delivers capacities up to 8GB at speeds we have known before (9-10 MB/s). It also has an interesting feature in a form of a switch that creates partitions therefore making it possible to use on older cameras as well.

If you’re very abusive when it comes to photographic equipment or if only the best is good enough (for your wallet) then you should consider the top of the line Extreme III series with lifetime warranty and priority tech support. With a special silicon layer it can stand up to abuse in temperatures as low as -25°C or as high as 85°C (that would be 13F-185F) however this is not what really separates these cards from the rest.

By far the most impressive thing about them is a gigantic leap forward regarding speed of transfer. They jumped to twice the speed of nearest competitors and you can find them at the 20MB/s mark. According to tests by Rob Galbraith and SanDisk, none of current top end dSLRs can reach those speeds so we could be left wondering what the point is? At the moment the only stage of the workflow that will be affected is transfer to computer which I’m sure will delight many picture editors processing gigabytes of images after a certain event. However even this won’t be possible with just any old box under the table. To reach that high you will need top quality computers, most importantly disk drives, card readers etc.

Perhaps you still wonder what the purpose of elevating transfer speed is but just think of future possibilities. If camera manufacturers figure out how to match card speeds we could even see a buffer-less camera that saves directly to the card and unlimited bursts at high fps. I must add this is pure speculation, whether it’s a realistic dream remains to be seen.

 

U.S. retail revenue share

 

SHOOT & STORE

 

S&S is a completely different concept. This series aims to conquer the low end of the market by convincing the consumers that shooting film or digital is essentially equivalent. Cards will be available in any shop, when you fill up one (with up to 100 images) you go and buy another (and another etc) saving used ones in a box or whatever. Just like film, without any need for a computer. SanDisk calls them consumable cards.

Low price (10-15$) and availability around every corner contrary to current situation where cards are rather expensive and only sold in specialized shops is what SanDisk hopes will entice buyers.

The responses I got from conversations with other flash card companies were pretty much unanimous. Most of them claimed this is only an attempt to clear old stock or overproduction and this is, to some extent, what SanDisk are saying as well although they will never admit it directly.

I should add that Shoot&Store cards are no different that regular flash cards. We can always delete images and continue using the card over and over. The difference is in the fact that they don’t expect such use. They want people constantly buying new cards and storing old ones as if the cards were single use only.

 

I’m rather pragmatic regarding the issue. People have been losing CDs as long as I can remember, we have problems remembering where we stored certain files, we are worried about long term stability of current storage media and what might happen to new ones. Who can guarantee long term safety of files stored on flash cards? Most cards are so small we can easily misplace them?!

I was even less convinced this is a good idea when I remembered what I heard from DATA RESCUE specialist who told me it only takes a short circuit or a stronger magnetic field to cause serious problems. Gone with the wind… I don’t plan on using my flash cards for long term storage until someone proves that I’m crazy and my doubts are unsubstantiated.

But let’s forget about all this for a moment. What bothers me most with this unnecessary hyper production is that little hint of environmental consciousness inside me. Isn’t reusability of flash cards one of the most convenient features of digital photography?

 

 

 

Some interesting facts as a conclusion…

 

Just think about how times are changing when in 2002 you parted with 500$ if you bought a 1GB card, right now you’re looking at a 150$ setback with the same purchase and in 2007 they’ll be giving them away like candy.

Only 6% of flash storage cards are serving their time in digital cameras, others found their way into feature phones, portable audio & multimedia devices etc.

 

A large-scale research of technology adoption rate shows exponential rate at which new technology is becoming mainstream. Radio took 38 years to achieve something feature phones will do in just 3.5

 

Feature phones are by far the most important market segment for SanDisk.

 

2/3rds of mobile phones sold in 2007 will have camera functions, over 50% of them will boast more than 2megapixels.

 

Samsung was the first to introduce a 3mp, 3x optical zoom camera phone. Just this week they announced a 5mp camera phone due to ship by the end of the month.

 

Global camera phone vs. DSC sales

 

Mobile phones with camcorder capabilities are on the way further increasing the demand for high capacity storage cards.

 

Future phones

 

dSLR cameras are driving the development of high performance flash cards. Expected sales of dSLR cameras can be seen on the chart above.

 

Current flash cards are reaching speeds around 9-10MB/s

 

New ESP technology used in Extreme III series will increase transfer speed up to 25MB/s.

 
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