GoPro (GPRO -1.92%) recently unveiled the "GoPro Developer Program" at a press event in San Francisco. The program enables developers to connect their third-party devices and mobile apps to GoPro cameras and create custom housing and mounts, paving the way for integrating its cameras into connected cars, toys, and other gadgets. The program has been quietly operating for over a year, and currently includes over 100 partners.
In a press release, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman called the program "a way for us to celebrate the innovative work of our developer community and more importantly, help enable what comes next." Let's check out what some of GoPro's partners have done so far, and whether or not these partnerships will boost sales of its action cameras.
Meet the developers
At the launch event, GoPro showcased products from 34 of its partners. Notable ones mentioned in GoPro's press release include BMW (BMWYY 2.45%), Mattel (MAT -6.06%), Telefonica (TEF -0.20%), and Timecode Systems.
BMW integrated video from GoPro cameras into its M-Laptimer app, which times laps and records car telemetry, speed, and location data. The app, which was launched in 2013, is designed for enthusiasts driving their cars in controlled environments. Mattel is integrating "child-friendly" GoPro-compatible camera housing and mounts into Fisher-Price's Jumperoo, Walker, and Gym exercise products for young children. GoPro states that the cameras will help parents capture "amazing milestones in their child's early years from a unique perspective."
Telefonica integrated GoPro support into its Xtreamr Mobile App, which enables users to live stream video to other people by sharing a link. The partnership closely resembles GoPro's recent deal with Twitter's (TWTR 1.19%) Periscope, which enables users to seamlessly swap between smartphone and action camera views while broadcasting. Timecode Systems' SyncBac Pro clips to the back of a Hero 4 to generate "frame-accurate time code" which can be integrated into larger pro camera setups.
But will this boost camera sales?
Securing over 100 partners in just over a year is impressive, but it doesn't guarantee that GoPro's camera sales will improve. BMW's app, for example, is designed for a niche group of drivers -- who might already use GoPro cameras as dash cams -- instead of mainstream customers. Fisher-Price's addition of action cameras to its "activity walkers" is interesting, but "GoPro-compatible" housing and mounts also work with a wide variety of cheaper cameras. Therefore, parents who don't want to spend $200 to $500 on a GoPro device could simply buy a cheaper camera.
Telefonica's GoPro integration in Xtreamr suffers from the same problem as its Periscope integration -- only GoPro's core customer base of outdoor enthusiasts will likely broadcast live streams on action cameras. Other users will probably use their smartphone cameras instead. The Timecode partnership might be interesting if GoPro cameras are used more in filmmaking, but only a few projects have ever used them for more than a few POV shots.
These four partnerships don't solve GoPro's lack of a moat against cheaper rivals and its inability to reach mainstream consumers. More interesting partnerships might emerge in the future, but they must be aimed at convincing mainstream consumers to buy GoPro cameras. Unfortunately, many of those consumers still don't see a point of owning both a high-end smartphone and a premium action camera.
Quality trumps quantity in partnerships
GoPro often forges impressive-sounding partnerships but fails to realize their full potential. Two years ago, it partnered with BMW and Mini in 2014 to synchronize its cameras to infotainment systems and iPhones. Last year, it signed a similar deal with Toyota to install GoPro mounts on its trucks. But GoPro didn't follow up on either deal to aggressively expand into the dedicated dash cam market. It also launched video apps across various gaming consoles and set-top boxes, but never explained how doing so would accomplish its goal of growing as a "media entity."
GoPro has pulled all these partnerships together with its Developer Program, but there's no guarantee that any of them will blossom and generate more meaningful sales of its action cameras. More importantly, the program hasn't visibly boosted sales despite being active for over a year. GoPro's sales only rose 16% in 2015, compared to 41% growth in 2014. Analysts still expect sales to fall 15% this year due to sluggish demand for action cameras and questionable demand for its upcoming drones.