What is Lytro? How is it differentiated from the competition? What is its competition? What is the current market? What is its message to the market?
The photography market can be roughly divided into professionals, prosumers and consumers.
Professionals care about the kinds of pictures they take and are looking for control, accuracy, dependence and ruggedness in a camera.
Consumers are not very particular about the picture quality and accuracy. Consumers care about how quickly they can capture the picture and upload it onto their favorite social network. Consumers also want the ability to capture video using the same camera.
Prosumers care a bit about the control and picture quality but are not very concerned about dependence and ruggedness.
Professionals and prosumers tend to gravitate towards SLRs and consumers move towards P&S cameras. Of late, consumers are moving towards cell phone cameras in droves. Especially after the introduction of smart phones with high pixel count and featureful cameras. Consumers are more interested in snapping a picture or shooting a video and uploading it onto the Internet instantaneously.
So, where does Lytro fit in this picture? Lytro is currently marketed as a consumer camera. The main differentiation of Lytro is that it lets you capture an image without first worrying about focusing it. This is something unique and no other camera can accomplish. Of course, there are several single focus cameras in the market. But, what Lytro promises is the ability to focus after taking the shot. Due to the nature of the lens structure, it is hard to pack it into a cell phone. At least, not right now. The current form factor is completely different than anything in the market. It is neither pocket nor palm friendly. Based on the current design, it is a hard sell to consumers.
Prosumers would be interested in the camera because of its novelty. Prosumers and technology geeks will buy it for the sake of technology so they can play with it and hack it.
Professionals could immensely benefit from the creative opportunities offered. But, professionals need control, accuracy, ruggedness and dependence. Lytro does not offer control over aperture and shutter speed. It only offers the ability to change focus, after the fact. It has a fixed aperture (f2.0?) and no way to control the shutter speed.
Until the Lytro technology can be put into a tablet or a smart phone, it is hard to sell it to the average consumer.
So, what features can we add to the Lytro to make it attractive to prosumers as well as professionals? Control is the biggest factor for this group.
The ability to control the image composition via variable focal lengths, aperture and shutter speed. The ability to convert the image into a standard 2D format after manipulation. This gives the user additional parameters (focus) to tweak after the shot is taken. This is tremendous value for professionals, as long as they can convert the final product into another standard 2D format and print high quality images.
Right now, the camera is taking away a lot of the controls from the user and giving one back. The value add from the new feature is not sufficient to replace the lost ones. That is where it is hard to differentiate and sell the camera to users.
As I mentioned earlier, law enforcement, security monitoring, etc. are areas where this technology can be very effectively used as it is.
(Update) Based on this article, Steve Jobs was interested in this technology. Maybe, Apple is waiting for the technology to become mature enough so they can acquire it and have Jony do some magic with it.
Apart from these exits, Lytro could end up being another Segway.
(Photo credit: Lytro.com)