Kaizen: Fuji's reasoning behind the sequence of firmware upgrades
Last week ago Michael Evans wrote about Fuji’s policy of offering firmware upgrades to bring older cameras as near as possible to later releases. It’s a policy that most Fuji owners appreciate. Fuji refer to it as kaizen.
Kaizen (改善), according to Wikipedia (remember when Encyclopaedia Britannica was the fount of all knowledge?), is the Japanese term for "improvement", or more literally, "change for better". Pretty well anyone in business concerned with manufacturing or logistics and supply chain will be familiar with the term. It's also trendy to apply it willy-nilly to all sorts of endeavours from song-writing to weight loss.
In the Fujifilm sense it applies to their willingness (note that I don't use the word "policy”—more of that later) to improve upon products that have already been released into the market through making available free firmware upgrades. The most recent of these, for the X-E2, effectively brings it almost on a par with the X-E2S. Why should Fuji do such a thing? Are they not, to all intents and purposes, cannibalising their own sales?
It's not as simple as that. In Fuji's own words (from their UK blog): "...it’s all part of our philosophy of kaizen to continually improve our products and hope that our users get plenty of joy out of their product before they feel they need to upgrade." Fuji are not led by fools. Nor are they a charity. They recognise that firmware doesn't just give their existing products a new lease of life, it also raises the "CX" (Customer Experience) "feelgood factor" which in turn improves "NPS" (Net Promoter Score). In other words Fuji are effectively using firmware as a customer loyalty tool.
And why not? There are some detractors, of course. They accuse Fuji of releasing half-completed products and updating them based on real-world user feedback once out in the marketplace. These nay-sayers may have had a point in the early days; both the X100 and the X-Pro1 were pretty flaky when they first came out but by the end of their production lives they were transformed.
Today, as I type, we actually see the opposite happening—the X-Pro2 release date is being put back because Fuji want to get it right before they release—an entirely commendable approach, which will not preclude further improvements in the future.
There are also those who have been lulled into a false sense of entitlement by Fuji's generosity. Remember when I described Fuji's kaizen approach above as a "willingness", not a "policy"? They have not committed to firmware upgrades in terms of frequency, regularity, quantity or indeed even at all. When you buy a Fuji product it would be entirely wrong to do so expecting an upgrade in the future; buy it for what it is today, and if it gets improved, so much the better. There is a vocal minority of the "misplaced entitled" who demand upgrades. The most recent and obvious example being the classic chrome film emulation mode not being back-ported to the X100S when it appeared on the X100T.
There was a number of voices raised in protest, made all the more strident by the knowledge that it could be done because it had been done for beta-tester X100S mule bodies. The petulant stamping of feet and the whine of "WHY can't I have it TOO??" was, for a time, loudly heard. But Fuji held the line and at time of writing have resisted all calls (and petulant cries) for classic chrome to be back-ported. Quite right too—remember what I said earlier about Fuji not being a charity? The X100S is a fine camera but it is not the X100T. Sometimes it is best to move forward, not stay where you are. As I said at the outset kaizen is change for better and sometimes (though not always) that change comes at a price.