Conversations have swirled this past year regarding the future of GoPro. With slipping revenue and falling stock prices, the company’s financial struggles have been widely-reported. In January, CNBC and others reported that GoPro had hired J.P. Morgan Chase to help guide a potential sale of the company. The report came days after GoPro CEO Nick Woodman hinted at a potential sale or partnership with another company. Earlier this year, GoPro reported a revenue fall of almost 40% in Q4 of 2017 compared to the same period the previous year. This sharp decline has continued from the holiday period and analysts expect the trend to continue, with some predicting an 8% total revenue drop this year. Although the company announced a stronger-than anticipated second quarter in 2018, third-quarter revenue is projected to be down from the same period a year ago. It also remains to be seen whether anticipated product releases later this year will significantly change the company’s trajectory.
Amidst the company’s struggles, many have cited GoPro’s lack of product innovation as a key to their financial woes. In an opinion piece for Bloomberg, author Tim Culpan discusses the company’s declining sales as a reflection of the fact that they are a “one-trick pony”. Although GoPro was a pioneer in the action-camera space, their product offering has not expanded much since 2004, when Apple’s best selling product was the iPod. Unlike products like smartphones, people do not regularly replace or upgrade their GoPro products, limiting repeat sales.
Xiaomi Corp, the world’s fourth largest smartphone maker, considered a GoPro acquisition for up to $1 billion earlier this year. The company has not yet entered the western market, but their product offering has expanded well beyond mobile. Xiaomi products include smart home appliances, speakers, smart TVs, wearables and more, most of which are connected to the Xiaomi IoT platform. The company has also invested in tech companies including Yi Technology, which sells action cameras that are a direct competitor to GoPro, and Huami, which produces wearable technology.
Much of the discussion surrounding this potential acquisition centered on Xiaomi’s recent moves and upcoming IPO. However, a more compelling story lies in how such an acquisition would impact future product development. While the acquisition could help Xiaomi expand into the American market with an established brand, it also leaves open the possibility of incorporating GoPro cameras into Xiaomi smartphones. Such a move could help Xiaomi expand into the American market using GoPro’s established brand, and also breathes new life into GoPro’s product.
Although some contend that it is unlikely that Xiaomi will follow through with a GoPro acquisition at this time, this type of integration would follow a trend of specialized and high end technology being integrated into consumer products, namely smartphone cameras. For example, smartphone maker Huawei and camera manufacturer Lecia recently partnered on the P20 and P20 Pro smartphones, which has the highest total pixel count of any smartphone camera currently available on the market. The collaboration also provides users with color modes (vivid, standard and smooth) that have been used by the German camera maker for years. Another recent example of a similar collaboration is Leica’s investment in camera company Light. The company’s recent $121 million Series D round led by SoftBank Vision Fund includes participation from Leica, which will help bring Light’s technology to smartphones in 2018. Shortly after the funding round closed, Light announced that it was working on a nine-camera smartphone prototype that is expected to launch in September.