In my opinion Nick Devlin starts from a false premise in his recent article
. He claims that software is what is holding back modern camera devices and that hardware is the easy part of modern camera manufacturing.
While it may be the fact that current business practices create high costs resulting from the programming required for modern camera hardware, this fact is the result of a closed process by camera manufacturers. Wishing to keep the camera a closed, proprietary device, manufacturers saddle themselves with the responsibility and cost of creating all of the software necessary to run and use the camera. Third party developers are shut out of the process, and there is no opportunity for skilled entrepreneurs to add value to camera hardware through additional software.
Consider instead if camera manufacturers were to use an open system, at least one in which specifications were made available if not the entire software stack. This would be similar to current mobile devices such as the iPhone/iPad (which Devlin argues is an opportunity for 3rd party development) or the even more open Android platform. In the case of the iPhone, the OS is largely closed, but specifications and libraries are provided to 3rd party developers. The Android platform, while to some degree control by Google, is even more open. In both cases, these platforms are thriving as developers produce new applications and hardware manufacturers continue to reap profits as they do not have to provide every tool themselves. It strikes me as completely possible that a modern camera could run Android and immediately gain access to the pool of experienced, motivated developers producing software for this platform.
As a proof of concept the Franken Camera
demonstrates what an open source camera could do, but these academic researchers do not have the R&D budgets and fabrication facilities of the big players. Producing the optics and hardware is the competitive advantage of the camera manufacturers. By opening the doors to 3rd party developers, they could decrease costs and offer more to consumers.
I agree with Devlin that the time is right to consider the new software features in modern cameras. I disagree that we need to look to the major manufacturing houses to provide them. We need the opportunity to create this ourselves.
While I disagree with his premise, I do agree with Devlin's conclusion: these features will probably not be produced. In both cases because camera manufacturers will keep the system locked down, proprietary, and featureless.