GoPro Not Really Threatened By Apple

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GoPro shares fell another 2% today after a rough week kicked off by reports about a patent for an action-type camera Apple was reassigned. Wall Street obviously became concerned that the behemoth will wipe out GoPro in one fell swoop with its own camera, but now there are numerous articles (like this one by Forbes staff writer Ryan Mac) explaining why that’s a ridiculous assumption.

Apparently investors aren’t convinced though, since GoPro shares have yet to recover from the shock.

Dissecting Apple’s patent

One of the first things I noticed about the patent, and Mac brings this up too, is that it’s a reassignment from a patent that was owned by Eastman Kodak and then purchased by Apple. In other words, a patent like this just doesn’t scream that Apple is going to actually create the camera described in it.

The patent dates from 2012, and the company isn’t typically in the habit of buying patents and then making products from them. Apple would probably design its own camera—if it was even interested in the action camera category, that is.

Is Apple truly serious about cameras?

It certainly seems unlikely that Apple will make its own standalone camera. It just doesn’t seem like it would fit into the company’s product lineup. Of course it’s possible Apple is looking for ways to improve the camera on its iPhones, but that would present no threat whatsoever to GoPro.

The action video camera category is a small niche that was created by GoPro. Apple doesn’t already offer standalone cameras and tends to go for bigger markets rather than small niche ones. It is possible that the Apple Watch will turn out to be a niche product. Of course Apple management is obviously not expecting the smartwatch to only be a niche product, so to use it as an example of the company moving into a niche market would be wrong.

What might Apple do with the patent?

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter offered a disturbing suggestion of what Apple might use the patent for. He suggested that the company might try to “figure out a way to bolt a phone to your head or put it at the end of the stick and the patents are for the remote control and how it works for the camera.”

Please let’s not start strapping smartphones to our heads. Talk about tacky. We’re much better off shooting videos with Google Glass, although even Google itself has apparently admitted that the device probably wouldn’t do well if it released it to the broader consumer market.

And don’t forget that Apple patents all kinds of technology without ever using it. Typical Wall Street to have such a major overreaction to what’s almost non-news. Apple gets patents all the time, and no one really cares about it other than drawing conclusions about what they might suggest about future versions of the iPhone or iPad. Usually people go overboard when imaging what Apple could do with its patents and how it could use the described technology in the iPhone, for example.

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