New Olympus owners to retain brand “for time being”

Camera fans are wondering what will become of the venerable Olympus brand following the completion of the acquisition of the camera business from Olympus Corp. by investment firm Japan Industrial Products (JIP). An interview with Toyokaeizai Online, JIP managing director Shinichi Inagaki made some definitive statements about JIP’s commitment to the category, past products and to the Olympus name.

“The Olympus brand will be maintained for the time being, and the maintenance of sold products will be continued,” he said. He added, though, the camera group’s R-and-D staff may not make the transfer. “The problem with carve-out from a large company is that R-and-D personnel do not follow the carve-out destination,” said Inagaki. “It is negotiations.”

Also, look for the new Olympus to leverage its optical heritage with expansion into related products, like security cameras.

“From a medium- to long-term perspective, we are also considering various markets such as consumer products specialized for video and business such as surveillance cameras,” he added. “It is said that it is necessary to find the optimal market by repeating challenges beyond the current Olympus camera lineup.”

Along those lines, Inagaki was critical of Olympus management’s relatively narrow view of the camera market: “We will carefully examine the features of the … business that were not visible inside Olympus and find out in which market the features will live. I feel empirically that if we can do it, we will experience strengths in the shrinking digital camera market.”

JIP is well known as the producer of VAIO laptops after Sony divested that business. In that case, JIP outsourced manufacturing and existed key markets to maintain profitability. Inagaki said those actions are not on the table, as of yet, for Olympus:  “Unlike VAIO, there is no idea of withdrawing from the overseas market, and we will continue to sell overseas in Europe, which is our main market …We are still discussing production systems such as factories, but we have no plans to make it fabless, such as leaving the main factory in Vietnam.”