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Businesses Hardware

GoPro Quits the Drone Business (theverge.com) 65

GoPro has announced that it's exiting the drone business, citing the challenges of turning a profit in an "extremely competitive" market. From a report: The company revealed the news during its earnings report today, saying that its Karma drone would be the last it would make. The company is also laying off hundreds of staff and reducing the pay of CEO Nicholas Woodman to $1 as it struggles to manage its rocky financials. The $799 Karma drone was first unveiled in late 2016, but proved to be an unfinished and expensive product.
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GoPro Quits the Drone Business

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  • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @05:26PM (#55888301)

    "GoPro Drones to Go."

    "GoPro Goes No Mo to Drone Zone, Citing Foes"

    "Drones are 'No Go' at GoPro"

  • by nealric ( 3647765 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @05:27PM (#55888313)

    I never understood how GoPro ended up getting so hyped in the first place. As smartphone cameras get better and better, the universe of people who really care enough to buy a stand alone camera keeps getting smaller. I know their schtick was "action sports" where a smartphone camera is too bulky or difficult to use, but most people figure out after filming a ski run or two that they aren't Shane McConkey (RIP) and won't be filming much of interest. Then, the gopro goes in the drawer, never to be used again.

    I suppose branching out into drones was an attempt at recognition of the above, but the problem is then they had to extend outside their core competencies. There's a lot more to a good drone than a good camera.

    • The true GoPro market is not about showing what it is like to do something, its showing YOU doing something to others. That's why selfie-oriented mounting hardware is so popular.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The true GoPro market is selling $30 webcams for upwards of $400. I guess they figured out that you can't do that with drones due to the number of competitors.

      • >The true GoPro market is not about showing what it is like to do something, its showing YOU doing something to others.

        Produce a drone that follows a beacon at a chosen distance and horizontal / vertical offset, and can handle obstacle avoidance. Make it crash-resistant, waterproof and buoyant, and able to keep up with a jet ski with a 15 minute flight time. If you want to get fancy, have it clever enough to be able to circle its target or occasionally pass overhead, or modify its relative position for

    • I never understood how GoPro ended up getting so hyped in the first place. As smartphone cameras get better and better, the universe of people who really care enough to buy a stand alone camera keeps getting smaller. I know their schtick was "action sports" where a smartphone camera is too bulky or difficult to use, but most people figure out after filming a ski run or two that they aren't Shane McConkey (RIP) and won't be filming much of interest.

      It's not about whether it's of interest to anyone else, necessarily. It's that if you wipe out during a ski run while using your smartphone to record your run, you will probably obliterate it. The people who can afford to go skiing frequently enough to have use for a camera have expensive phones, and a couple hundred bucks for a GoPro is both a trivial expense, and also likely to save them hundreds more. It doesn't have to be a GoPro, and in fact it probably shouldn't be at this point, but one advantage of

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I have a GoPro. I do a decent amount (30-40 weekends/year) of cave exploration, mapping and cave diving, so it's nice for that. They have a good range of accessories and extremely durable and waterproof. I would never take a smartphone into a cave. Most of the filming I do is for my own documentation and I rarely share it.

      The problem with GoPro is once you've bought one, you don't really need another. Mine is a 3rd gen model and I have no intention of upgrading. Neither does anyone else I know. and I

      • by tsqr ( 808554 )

        The problem with GoPro is once you've bought one, you don't really need another. Mine is a 3rd gen model and I have no intention of upgrading. Neither does anyone else I know. and I know a lot of people who regularly use their GoPro. Whatever is the current model is bought and then used for years.

        Absolutely. This is why they tried to get into the drone business, because their market was pretty much saturated.

    • I never understood how GoPro ended up getting so hyped in the first place. As smartphone cameras get better and better, the universe of people who really care enough to buy a stand alone camera keeps getting smaller. I know their schtick was "action sports" where a smartphone camera is too bulky or difficult to use, but most people figure out after filming a ski run or two that they aren't Shane McConkey (RIP) and won't be filming much of interest. Then, the gopro goes in the drawer, never to be used again.

      I suppose branching out into drones was an attempt at recognition of the above, but the problem is then they had to extend outside their core competencies. There's a lot more to a good drone than a good camera.

      Newsflash: there is such a thing as people needing cameras for professional use. We're not gonna use a smartphone except to look at the time, use an app to know at what angle the sun will be at a precise date/time and other tasks that professional cameras obviously can't do. Though even there, GoPros are, quite frankly, shit, and they're thankfully being overrun by cheaper, quality alternatives.

      • No question that there are people who need pro-level stuff. But that was never really their market and it is a very small one compared to the consumer side.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I never understood how GoPro ended up getting so hyped in the first place.

      Precisely because they spent a lot of money generating the hype. It is the same model Redbull uses, and it can be very successful. The issue for GoPro is that they do not have any platform lock in or proprietary tech (they are pretty much an Ambarella reference design). Once their market got big enough to get the attention of the likes of Sony and chinese OEMs, it was always going to commoditize quickly. Hence why their profit margins are razor thin, despite decent turnover.

      They tried a number of things to

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      but most people figure out after filming a ski run or two that they aren't Shane McConkey (RIP) and won't be filming much of interest. Then, the gopro goes in the drawer, never to be used again.

      Uhm, have you ever looked at a normal person's social media feed? Objectively it's full of everyday people doing everyday things. Lots of people have an action camera and make pretty mundane clips to say "Hey, I'm skiing in the Alps" not "Watch me do a triple backflip" using it more or less like a dash cam. Their problem is that the market is pretty saturated and there's very little reason to upgrade your camera, it's about form factor, robustness, weather sealing and mounting accessories. It's more about h

      • I've never seen gopro footage on any of my friends facebook feeds- even the ones who do things that might be mildly interesting to watch.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The message to future people with skills is to keep innovating.
      When 4K60 is about to become a low cost product for consumers, be ready, first and with a good product.
      Dont expect sales of last gen product lines to keep the creative and gifted people brand loyal.
      The most creative people want the next gen product now to be more creative with.
      The next brand to offer that is the brand they will be using and telling the world about.
      Other brands are waiting to offer just that product, service, support, soft
    • by rwven ( 663186 )

      I think instead of cancelling their drone business after a single lack-luster try, they should have come out with a V2 that didn't suck. Their strategy here makes no sense.

    • You mostly answered your own question, but GoPro was cool at the begginning because there wasn't any other small action camera which was affordable. At the time when gopro was released, the cameras were usually custom made and very expensive (for pros basically). So the gopro guys probably took an okay chip and, coupled it with other electronics and a battery, made a hard case and that was it. But the price was the best part really because it was relatively cheap. Those cameras were used everywhere and they

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      I never understood how GoPro ended up getting so hyped in the first place. As smartphone cameras get better and better, the universe of people who really care enough to buy a stand alone camera keeps getting smaller. I know their schtick was "action sports" where a smartphone camera is too bulky or difficult to use, but most people figure out after filming a ski run or two that they aren't Shane McConkey (RIP) and won't be filming much of interest. Then, the gopro goes in the drawer, never to be used again.

      I suppose branching out into drones was an attempt at recognition of the above, but the problem is then they had to extend outside their core competencies. There's a lot more to a good drone than a good camera.

      Smartphones are nowhere near the level of a good sports camera... not by a long shot.

      GoPro got so hyped up because they were the only major brand for a long time and they applied a little Apple-esque marketing pixie dust. Now there are dozens of Chinese no-name brand cameras that are just as good as a branded GoPro (because they're based of the designs GoPro haven't changed in ages) and GoPro are trying to enter new markets to avoid irrelevance as the pixie dust has worn off.

      • Of course a smartphone is nowhere near the level of a high-end standalone camera, but smartphones have gotten to the point that they are plenty good for the average Joe.

        • by mjwx ( 966435 )

          Of course a smartphone is nowhere near the level of a high-end standalone camera, but smartphones have gotten to the point that they are plenty good for the average Joe.

          I'd agree... but the average Joe produces far poorer than average shots. Giving them better gear would not make them a better photographer.

          However I was talking specifically about sports cameras which are designed to capture high resolution, high speed video photography along with being weatherproof and shock resistant. Most models will come with some inbuilt image stabilisation as well. Smart phones are in no-way designed for this and likely never will be.

          I went to the Goodwood Festival of Speed last

  • Chinese (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @05:28PM (#55888323) Journal

    A Chinese company called DJI is clobbering every other competitor. [cnbc.com]

    Some say it grew suspiciously fast and suspect gov't-backed cheating & subsidizing. But at this point there's no solid evidence.

  • by backslashdot ( 95548 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @05:37PM (#55888399)

    Hmm, I guess they had bad Karma.

    Thank you, thank you. No applause necessary.

  • a company needs seven hundred lawyers. Let alone flying it.
    • GoPro would only have needed to worry about that if their drones could reliably fly. That was never a feature they had.

  • Well PR to tech geeks, at least.

    The headlines would read

    Karma crashes into Slashdot headquarters!

    Upon investigation, it was revealed that the storage facility was *not "Slashdot headquarters".

  • They're a textbook example of a one-trick product pony, the type of company whose IPO you never want to invest in other than to flip it to the next greater fool.
    • by Zocalo ( 252965 )
      I don't think there's going to be an IPO (or ICO for that matter, given the number of companies jumping on that bandwagon), at least not in the near future. According to CNBC they might also be up for sale. [cnbc.com] I'm sure there would be some white knight willing to try and ride to the rescue, but at this point I fear it's going to take more than lower prices and a couple of new mounting options to turn things around. More likely they'll either end up part of some tech multi-national like Softbank or grabbed fo
  • citing the challenges of turning a profit in an "extremely competitive" market

    True, that. It's hard to turn a profit when your competitors have drones that fly, while yours grab headlines for literally dropping out of the sky.

    That's only half joking. The PR disaster of the early design issue was pretty huge. Personally, I think it's a shame. The likes of DJI really could use some stiff competition.

  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @05:59PM (#55888595)

    Drop your salary from about a million per year to $1
    Keep your hundred million in stock payments.

    That year, Woodman earned a staggering $77.4 million. His package included a base salary of $800,000 and stock awards of $74.6 million, as well as other compensation

    That was his 2016 package, 2017 was probably bigger.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      But he would be practically destitute otherwise. It’s why he also needed a tax cut. It’s tough to live off only a meager 1600x the median US employee’s yearly salary.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Indeed. And the reason they do this is that the tax system in most countries is geared towards low taxes on investment income and high taxes on salary and wage income. You would be stupid to allocate your income towards the latter if you have the choice.

      Being able to spin it as some kind of honorable sacrifice is just icing on the cake really.

      These people really are corporate psychopaths.

  • Had a GoPro4 Hero Black, battery size was about a sugar cube. Glad I sold it fast. The video quality was nice (apart from the fisheye) but it was just a toy. I could suck longer on a sugar cube than take a video on the cam...
  • An overhyped producer of overpriced toys tanks. Film at Eleven. Anyone else notice how light Ms. Mash's "stories" are? Do your job, write a decent couple of paragraphs. Google News had more on the story than she did.
  • More importantly, have they fixed the vibration ripple effect?

  • Which action cam does everyone like nowadays? Inexpensive and Professional quality recommendations are welcome.

    • by Pascoea ( 968200 )
      Bought the cheapest 1080p 30fps POS i could find on AliExpress to attach to the front of my quad. Battery lasts long enough to be useful, takes reasonably good video, wifi connectivity is a joke.

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