Chairman of Canon Taiwan stresses total digital imaging solutions

William C. Pao, The China Post

With consumers being inundated by a wide range of digital input and output devices such as digital cameras, printers and copiers, Canon Marketing (Taiwan) Co. will set itself apart from others by offering Taiwan customers total solutions to satisfy their imaging needs, said the company’s chairman and CEO. Masaharu Tsujii, who heads Canon’s marketing operations on the island, said such solutions will link input and output devices with personal computers or other processing units. The company has partnered with local PC makers to offer a package that permits users to take pictures, process them on their PC and print them out. “Times have changed,” Tsujii stated, saying the traditional model the company had used in the past involving marketing each individual item separately no longer works. By integrating products Canon has developed over the past decades into processing units manufactured by its partners, the company can offer customers more value-added services, he said. Canon Marketing Taiwan is one of the three local operations of Canon Inc., the Japanese imaging giant that has been marketing its products on the island over the past 40 years. Its Taiwan operations also include a semiconductor unit in Hsinchu and a manufacturing plant in Taichung churning out traditional analogue cameras and key components for digital cameras assembled in mainland China. Tsujii, 53, said Taiwan is a unique market, where PC penetration is higher than that of Japan and young people are drawn to digital input and output experiences. Currently Taiwan represents about 10 percent of Canon’s total exports in Asia, and Canon digital cameras account for 28 percent of the local market, sharing approximately the same ranking as Olympus, he said. The combined market share for Canon digital and analogue cameras is over 40 percent, he said, adding: “The more we can link digital cameras to traditional ones, the more we can increase our market share. The market share of traditional cameras comes not from cost but from various factors such as quality, trust in the brand and commitment. Overall we have succeeded in building up the Canon brand image.” As for Taiwan’s role as a manufacturer, Tsujii said the island has become an advanced manufacturing base for IT products and therefore is suitable for making middle- to high-end digital cameras. Currently such cameras are still being made in Japan. The chairman however discussed rising wages here in Taiwan over the past five to six years, which prompted Canon to make some adjustments in its manufacturing strategy. With mainland China becoming an important manufacturing base for lower-end IT products, Canon has begun to assemble some of its products there, he said. Meanwhile, the Taichung factory will continue to make analogue cameras due to the experience it has acquired over the years, Tsujii said. Canon’s other Asia-Pacific operations include those in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia. Last year the company made approximately US$2.213 billion in sales in the region. As for the Americas and Europe, the company generated US$7.440 billion and US$6.107 billion last year, respectively. When asked about the future for digital cameras, Tsujii said the market is still expanding, with middle- to high-end cameras — especially those able to take pictures three million pixels and above — expected to be more popular than ever. Current printing technologies have made it possible to develop digital images with a 300-dpi resolution or higher into photos that look the same as film-developed ones. “This is a characteristic of human beings. When they have some new revolutionary products, like the digital camera … they are happy with color, during the initial stage,” he said. “But once they see color as a given, they start to want more, like speed, high-quality and practicality.” With rising popularity, middle- to high-end cameras will also become cheaper, due to increased competition and simplified techniques required to make them, Tsujii said. A camera capable of taking 3-MB photos may eventually be sold at NT$5,000, dropping from the NT$18,000 to NT$35,000 now, he predicted. However, Tsujii believes it will take time for digital cameras to completely replace analogue cameras, due to technological barriers and price factors. The lowest-end traditional cameras cost around NT$3,000, which still represents an affordable price for developing markets such as Africa and South America, he said. Commenting on what’s in store for Canon’s future products, Tsujii said the company’s R&D is working on an improved lens system with one lens able to take on different zoom capabilities. Right now, the system requires five to seven lenses, making the camera heavier and more expensive to make. Furthermore, Tsujii mentioned the company will continue to innovate software for digital image processing, which involves the fine-tuning of color, contrast, and other features of digitized photographs. With the know-how acquired over the years in the development of analog imaging techniques, Canon can apply its knowledge to enhancing digital imaging software. “This is another feature that sets us apart from our competitors,” he said.