GoPro’s Growth Hopes Now Ride on This One Device

We don't know much about the upcoming Fusion spherical camera yet, but we do know this: Its reception could make or break GoPro long term.

Travis Hoium
Travis Hoium
Jun 3, 2017 at 11:00AM
Consumer Goods

When GoPro Inc. (NASDAQ:GPRO) went public, it was supposed to be a growth company that could leverage action cameras to get into drones, media, and all kinds of other innovative products. Instead, it's starting to look more and more like the action camera that GoPro pioneered may have been a one-hit wonder. 

GoPro has all but lost the drone market to DJI's Mavic and Spark, unless it can introduce a Karma update that has improved technology and/or lower cost. And given the time it took just to launch Karma, I don't have confidence that sort of upgrade will happen anytime soon. In action cameras, the Hero line of products is an industry standard, but it's just not a growth product anymore. That leaves GoPro's upcoming Fusion spherical camera as the company's best option for growth. And even that's not a sure bet. 

Image of the Fusion camera.

Image source: GoPro.

We don't know much about Fusion

In April, GoPro announced its plans for the Fusion camera, which will bring spherical image capture into its portfolio. We know that the camera will take 5.2K30 video and allows for "overcapture" or reframing anywhere in the image, but we've heard little beyond that. Launch date, price, form factor, and software are all big unknowns right now. 

Meanwhile, Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN) has introduced the VIRB 360 at $799.99, including software. The VIRB 360 can even be controlled with your voice, livestream, and can overlay GPS data. Samsung's Gear 360 was also recently revamped to offer better images and a unique form factor. And fitting into the Samsung VR ecosystem is a nice position for a camera to start from. 

Samsung's Gear 360 handheld 360 camera.

Samsung's Gear 360. Image source: Samsung.

Since we don't know much about Fusion, it's hard to gauge how it will stack up to the competition. And that uncertainty has to be uncomfortable for investors. 

GoPro's recent product launches haven't impressed

Going back to 2015, GoPro's product launches haven't exactly been stellar. The Hero 4 debut offered up such an unimpressive and convoluted set of products that it led to $419 million in net losses during 2016. It wasn't until the Hero 5 launch that results showed any sign of improvement, and even then, the product hasn't been successful enough to lead to net income yet. 

The Karma drone launch was even worse. Drones literally started falling out of the sky, requiring it to follow the product's debut almost immediately with a recall of every Karma sold, and a months long delay before it returned to store shelves. Even today, Karma doesn't have much of a retail footprint, and its capabilities are well behind those of  DJI's drones. 

Fusion could be a great product for GoPro, but assuming it will be successful is a risky bet for investors. There's just as good a chance that it will flop, and that the company will fall behind Garmin and Samsung in the race to make 360-degree image capture more common. But at this point, everything is riding on Fusion for GoPro. Without it, the company can barely hope to break even, and has very little hope for growth. This could end up being a make-or-break product for the company, and at this point, investors don't even know enough about Fusion to know what they're betting on.