Leica's Kaufmann: Apple has its nose high in the air
The cooperation between Leica and Chinese manufacturer Huawei is “just the beginning”, according to Leica boss Oliver Kaltner: “Technical cooperation with other companies is absolutely conceivable. That is definitely our objective. There are lenses everywhere, in every television, in every console, in action cameras and in drones.”
Speaking to the German magazine “Capital”, he confirmed that the camera manufacturer is open for further discussion and will actively take the lead in seeking partners.
In the same interview, Leica owner Andreas Kaufmann maintained that smartphone cameras are “the future”.
Before the cooperation with Huawei, Leica had had discussions with Apple about a mutual development. But, according to Dr. Kaufmann, the talks were broken off: “In my opinion Apple is not the sort of company that likes cooperation.” He went on to say that if Apple doesn’t watch out it will choke on its own success: “Apple sometimes has its nose high in the air”.
He certainly doesn’t mince words and this rather undiplomatic commentary is the first clear indication we have had that Leica would have preferred a deal with Apple, the Leica of the smartphone world.
Last week I wrote about the smartphone as a camera and the effect it had had on the photographic market. Dr. Kaufmann is right in one respect, the smartphone camera is a future of sorts—a future for quick, point-and-shoot photography. Everyone now has a camera in their pocket, all the time. This, I argued, is good for the camera market because it encourages smartphone photographers to aspire to something better. But I do not see how the presence of a Leica lens in a smartphone will do anything to enhance this progress.
One of the big problems with the Huawei cooperation is Android. Apple occupies the high-end of the smartphone market and appeals precisely to those individuals who could be tempted by the red dot. They are less likely to be attracted by Android. I would not be surprised to find that the vast majority of Leica users have an iPhone in their pockets. Apple customers tend to be the bigger spenders; Android is still a second best in terms of security, seamless upgrades and a world-class eco-system.
It will be interesting to see how Leica’s plans to invade all these other optical areas will pan out.