Olympus just announced the E-400, the smallest DSLR yet with 10 megapixels and a 4/3 mount. Without taking about image quality, this sounds like good news since it brings a 4/3 DSLR that finally achieves the promise of being smaller and raises Olympus’ megapixels to the current market standard.
It won’t be available in North America though. When that was all the information we got, it seemed surprising but it would not be the first time. It could have been a question of part supply, but here is an excerpt from an official Olympus statement posted on DP Review:
It is not uncommon for products to be available in select regions. In the Americas, we chose to focus on the Evolt E-500 and Evolt E-330 due to their overwhelming success. Both products have won multiple awards.
So, there we have an annoucement from Olympus UK which says that they will introduce a better camera, the E-400, in November and a statement from Olympus US that they rather sell us their older models since we are still buying them. We presume Europeans have not been buying enough E-330 and E-500 cameras and therefore they are rewarded with a new an improved model. So much for North Americans supporting Olympus and encouraging them to grow!
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This reminds me of yield management. Yield management is concerned with extracting the most money possible from customers. It is a common practive within airline companies for pricing plane tickets. For Olympus, it translates to keep selling the E-330 and the E-500 until people no longer buy them, thus maximizing the possible revenues from these models. Presumably once this happens, they will start selling to E-400 to realize its revenue potential. If they were to introduce the E-400 while older models are still selling well, then some people would put there money on the superior E-400 instead and therefore Olympus would collect less money for their older models.
This reinforces what most people already knew: companies are not driven my innovation but by maximizing profits. Innovation is simply a competitive tool. Where no innovation is required, none would be produced, as is the case for companies in near-monopolistic market positions.