Axis / Canon Conflict

Author: Brian Karas, Published on May 18, 2016

Canon spent $2.8B to acquire Axis, and in doing so created one of the industries largest product line conflicts.

Despite obvious benefits of merging the strengths of each company, the two companies remain independent, battling each other.

We review the current state of the two products, and the impact of this conflict in this report.

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Comments (56)

Axis is coming out with a dome that can use limited pan & tilt functionality for installation assistance just like the Canon model that has this. I am sure we are going to see the two lines merge, albeit slowly, probably with the Axis name eventually going away.

That assumes that someone, somewhere, has an overarching strategy that they just haven't put into place yet, but none of the available evidence supports this. If, in fact, some guy in a back room somewhere is actually looking at Axis products and at Canon products and thinking how to synergize the two, then, sure. Take the best ideas Axis has and the best ideas Canon has and slowly merge them. If the guy and the back room don't exist, though, then that won't happen and Canon will have blown a bunch of cash for nothing.

Weird, because Canon seems like a real smart company. Maybe a strategy does exist and has yet to become apparent.

My guess is that he does exist, the Japanese don't mess around and Canon didn't get to where they are by dropping the ball. My guess is that within 3 to 5 years the Axis name will be a distant memory.

Canon didn't get to where they are by dropping the ball.

Canon's stock price is down 45% over the past 10 years:

And their revenue is roughly flat for the past decade.

I have heard similar cases praising the Japanese / Canon but I'd like to hear more details supporting it.

Japanese have a very different culture. It's always the best.

Take a look at the catastrophic Olympus case.

Canon should use it's strong brand name among consumers to move into in the low to mid-range market to be complementary where Axis is not strong.

A few reasons why Canon kept Axis and Milestones as separate entities:

1. By keeping Axis and Milestones separate, it is easy for Canon to spin them off, once Canon has fully absorbed their competitive edges in their technologies and business models;

2. Canon wants to continue to leverage the brand equity of Axis and Milestones, at least in the short term;

3. The integration between Canon and Axis was particularly difficult. I could image that at high level due to cultural difference; how many you Anglo-American-establishment whites would welcome a Japanese supervisor?

4. Expectation of Yen depreciation against US dollar. At the time Canon acquired Axis, Japanese Yen has been on a depreciation ride against the US dollars. At that time, the general market expectation was that Yen will depreciate further against the US dollars. Thus, by buying a US company at that time and selling it later at the same price, Canon will stand to make a gain;

Sorry to disagree but Axis is neither Anglo nor American...Swedes have their own unique arrogance and some may even welcome a Japanese boss...they had Sony-Ericsson for quite some time across the street quite literally from Axis HQ.

Thus, by buying a US company at that time and selling it later at the same price, Canon will stand to make a gain;

If they wanted to capitalize on currency exchange rates, why wouldn't they just go with the more direct approach of buying/selling Yen or USD? There is no need to buy a company just to leverage exchange rates.

Not to mention, the deal wasn't conducted in USD.

the deal wasn't conducted in USD...

You can say that again (and again); from the Canon tender instructions:

...[that] any purported tender of shares made by a person located in the United States or any agent fiduciary or other intermediary acting on a non-discretionary basis for a principal giving instructions from within the United States will be invalid and will not be accepted. Each holder of shares participating in the Offer will represent that it is not a U.S. person, is not located in the United States and is not participating in such Offer from the United States or that it is acting on a non-discretionary basis for a principal that is not a U.S. person, that is located outside the United States and that is not giving an order to participate in such offer from the United States.

Axis shares trade in Swedish Krona (SEK) and Canon bought Axis shares so presumably Canon paid in SEK, whether they converted from yen first, etc.

by buying a US company at that time and selling it later at the same price, Canon will stand to make a gain

Axis Communications AB is not a US company, period. There's nothing to debate here. The underlying premise is simply wrong.

I've been hit with "friendly fire", U5 is your target...

Maybe in Japanese tradition someone or some people were expected to resign for the benefit of the company, but ended up not happening and those people are still hanging around and keeping the other brand alive.

From what we can tell, the Canon video surveillance team is expanding and they are hiring in various places. The whole slow shutdown is a sensible hypothesis but that does not seem to be happening here.

I chose 'other' because it really doesn't matter which brand they pick. They just need to pick one. And then fuse their strength at the top end of the market and attack that full force. Maybe grab a smaller company that lets them attack the low cost SMB range and make a singular global competitor that can seriously compete with a state-run behemoth like Hikvision.

Get serious, pick a brand and get busy building a global infrastructure and keiretsu around it. What the hell is so complicated about a premise like that a few years in to a multi-billion dollar deal?

Also strange is how Canon is letting Axis enhance its own VMS...

Canon may drop their brand in this market and just promote Axis instead. because Canon is more a consumer brand, in digital camera and camcorders, rather than industry brand. Canon's huge investments in advertisement also has nothing to do with Axis in surveillance market.

It's a completely failure to use Canon brand for such industry, and it can be a success if this is just a financial investment in Axis and keep Axis to be independent, and they may grow better with Canon's financial support, sales channel support, and also lens and camera integration experience.

It looks like Canon big boss has not carefully thought before they made this acquisition.

total, total rubbish

"because Canon is more a consumer brand, in digital camera and camcorders, rather than industry brand."

I should expand....

The amount of Canon product from across the portfolio being utilised in professional business environments is vast. Their is a fine pedigree of established B2B business

Keep both brands and rely on their strength in different markets.

The physical product portofolio should be merged and use same familiy of components to increase volume and reduce production cost. This would also reduce their development cost significantly.

Keep both brands...use same familiy of components...

Usually in bid situations, or being evaluated for specs, especially in government, aren't there rules about disclosing ownership by an entity owning multiple entities involved in the process? Could there be a risk in a bid situation where Axis, Milestone and maybe even Canon are being evaluated for bid specs or even being offered in competing bids, where the purchaser may not be aware of the common ownership between them initially but when they find out may cause a problem for the seller/integrator......?

Do you think Axis will stay as a brand with this approach?

Canon should combine all of their technologies and child companies in the security industry to form an end to end software/hardware solution called Milecanaxis or Canaxistone

I thinks it's Canaxistone I'm currently taking for my rash....

Plenty of companies have competing lines, such as Chevrolet/Buick/Cadillac, VW/Audi/Porsche, and Toyota/Lexus.

Keep Axis' high quality, price point, and presence in the IT industry. Meanwhile, hit the mid- to low-end market with the Canon product.

hit the mid- to low-end market with the Canon product

But Canon's video surveillance products are currently targeted to the mid to high end market, just poorly. I suppose they could shift but it would be a notable shift.

How about they sell the new Axis companion line to anyone who wants to compete with Hikvision etc in the lower market and then once the Canon and Axis lines are merged they sell this product only to certified partners.

they sell this product only to certified partners.

Clever Brian, I see what you are trying to do ;)

It could happen but, as you know, it would be a huge shift from Axis long term channel strategy.

One can only dream

The Canon product line is more expensive (granted), but the quality is appreciably higher than AXIS. I think that the best of both worlds would be to amalgamate the two product into a single line with a high-end suite (Canon) and a lower end (AXIS).

Edward, in what respects?

Axis is strong in low light, Axis is strong in WDR, Axis is strong in bandwidth (Zipstream). What significant advantage does Canon's own VS portfolio offer that Axis does not?

In my opinion, the challenge for Canon integrating the two lines is Canon seeing themselves as a company that offers quality or best in class (cameras & lenses) even though that's not the case with security cameras. To relegate their Canon line to the "low cost offering" seems to run in opposition to the company culture. As difficult as it is to merge companies, if you picked the best people from Axis, Milestone & Canon, they might be able to develop a winning strategy and product offering.

Canon should not drop anything, that would be stupid. Instead, Canon should use it's optical / lenses experience to create a unique lucrative niche of powerful hi-zoom cameras, macro lenses cameras [what ever else cameras.. all what requires lenses beyond standards of what Axis has now] Canon then should use time-proven Axis IP-core for this unique line of cameras. This will bring a new line of customers willing to record something which was unreachable to Axis camera line.

Personally I think that everyone here is thinking like a "Westerner". As in- "Why are they not doing something right now!" The Japanese operate on a much longer business cycle. They probably have a 50+ year business plan, one year is barely scratching the surface. Emails haven't even been sent on this lol. Some guy at Canon is figuring this deal for his grand-kid...

That sounds like a joke. But I am actually serious.

Personally I think that everyone here is thinking like a "Westerner".

Then it's worth disclosing that your parent company is Canon and you have an interest in believing everyone else is just not thinking straight.

But beyond that, let's say Japan Inc / Canon really has a 50 year plan. What value does that have in a technology field where basically everything Axis and Milestone now sells will be obsolete in a decade? That's not a criticism of any company, just a reality of the industry.

Tech companies need to execute fast because tech moves quickly and the opportunities to make profits shift rapidly, making those who move on 50 year plans multiple steps behind.

I did not say it made sense to me nor was I defending what Canon is doing. Because I don't understand it. Please don't read into my comments other than I am adding my opinion to the conversation. I have no idea how a company can run a multi decade business plan. I was simply chiming in that culturally their business thinking seems different.

Go the Hik path, provide one product line with a choice of OEM branding and give distributors / end users their choice.

If there are any technical, quality or feature advantages in the Canon range: add them to Axis then drop Canon - continuing as they are will only serve to dilute both brands and cause market confusion.

The possible ensuing conflict is greater than the sum of the parts. By entering the access control market space, AXIS has jumped into a game that they 1)lack any knowledge of; 2) lack any expertise in; 3) will position them in direct conflict with much of their existing market. In their core space, AXIS is known for high quality and high costs. In entering the access control space, AXIS is known for low quality and low price. They most likely will lean on their large and loyal retail customer to accept their product as a viable alternative only to be sorely disappointed upon deployment due to the lack of maturity of their opening product. Canon is not typically known to step into new product sectors lacking any expertise. Rather than bear the extra costs and RISKS, it seems Canon would do well to kill the internal fledgling effort with the AXIS approach to access control and maybe acquire a top rated access control provider.

It appears that a failure to address that future conflict at this stage could limit future growth prospects for AXIS. Once a customer feels the burn, the stench in the air will be AXIS's formerly good name.

In entering the access control space, AXIS is known for low quality and low price.

Really? First, I'll argue that Axis is low price in the access space. A controller still costs ~$500, when other IP-based units (ie: HID Edge EVO for one example) are at least $100 less. The accompanying reader and video intercom aren't low priced either, so I am confused.

And the low-quality statement really surprises me. In terms of hardware design, the controller units we've used are as good as what you see in the camera portfolios.

We have one of the first A1001s released in the US that we used for early testing (ie: Testing Axis Access Control) and I am actually more surprised that despite being an initial release product, there weren't major bugs or revisions.

I'm no fanboi, but we use that unit frequently. I just don't agree that it is low quality.

Not to derail the thread, but Axis didn't spontaneously enter the access market on a whim. Rumors about their entry into access were years in the making. In talking with their design team, they understood the hardware role/demands well.

The access market itself is different than video, and that may be the cause of tepid success. But then even Axis expected this: Axis Admits Access Control Expectations Low

Hi Brian, I myself consider the Axis unit lower end not because of cost or quality but more because it isn't as mature of a product as other EAC systems and lacks some features. We haven't installed any other than our demo unit, so in reality my option is not really based on anything other than my first impression, but sometimes that is all it takes and I suspect many other integrators might think the same way.

Thanks for the feedback, Brian. Interesting. What are some features the A1001 lacks?

Sorry for the vague answer but I don't actually remember. I do remember that when it was demo'd to me way back that there were some things that were lacking. Of course I am comparing it against S2 which probably isn't fair. Also, there may have been many updates that I am not aware of. All of these things aside though I was left with the impression that I was left with, which is probably the case for many in my shoes.

I am sure my Axis rep is going to read this and get right over to my office now to show me what has changed :->

One thing I'll suggest as important to note:

The A1001's included access management platform (Axis Entry Manager) is very basic and rudimentary.

By design, Axis clips the wings of that interface so:

1) They can embed it into A1001 controllers, no other server or panel needed, and

2) It is not more appealing to power users than Axis' partner offerings, whom they need to accept and integrate with the controller from a business position standpoint.

What I'm saying is that the features in the hardware may be there, but may not be used or appear available unless the parent management platform integrates them.

It has 2 reader inputs, but only 1 true hardware relay output, the other 2 default outputs are just a 12V voltage trigger (so you need an additional piece of hardware if you need 2 or more hardware relay outputs - ADA operator integration, etc)

It only accepts 4bit PIN data out of standard HID keypad readers, it rejects/doesnt recognize 8bit PINs.

When utilized with Genetec Synergis, it doesnt work in a standalone or offline mode, it must have an established live connection to the management server. I am not sure if this is the case with Milestone, or other 3rd party platforms...

They also use non-standard odd terms for the input definitions. Rather than using Normally Closed, Normally Opened, Shunted, etc. I don't remember what the verbiage they use, but its confusing.

Canon has a lot of experience with lenses and large mega-pixel imagers for consumer and commercial cameras. Can't Canon take some of this expertise and apply it to the high end and specialty camera market.

Axis produces good cameras at a reasonable price.

Canon could product special need/special application cameras at a premium price.

They wouldn't compete with each other. They could compliment each other. And then Canon could incorporate some of the Axis technology into Canon cameras without infringing on the Axis market share.

Another example of Canon's legacy video surveillance business actively marketing against Axis is in a trade mag ad this month:

Combine the two, essentially dropping the Canon branding at the higher end of the market. Axis with Canon optics, for instance. Better integration with Milestone. Using the Canon brand for a mid to low end dilutes any stature for the Canon company, so not a good plan. Launch a new line of "Axcon" cameras for the mid/low end, available with add-ons like improved Canon optics (for a price adder, of course).

So maybe the corporate strategy is to keep all the teams sharp thru mutual competition and non-linear disruption.

Red teaming taken to a whole new level.

Milestone competes against Axis for recorders and Canon competes against them for cameras.

More oars in the water might be ok if the ocean is big enough...

Canon R&D still running at full 'tilt'

Canon Europe Unveils Eight New 2MP Network Cameras At IFSEC 2016

The new range includes an outdoor 360º endless panning model with 30x optical zoom and fast autofocus, and two new fixed box “bullet” models with 20x optical zoom, a first for Canon.

All eight new models will be on display alongside the recently announced VB-H651V and Canon’s flagship low light network camera, the VB-M50B, capable of recording bright, clear images in low light conditions, particularly at the telephoto end.

I am pretty sure you are well aware of this but, for clarification and other member's sake, those models are not new and are already widely shipping, at least in the US.

Related, I laughed when IFSEC boasted Canon "announces the launch of eight new 2MP network cameras, unveiled at IFSEC 2016"...

Canon Europe Unveils Eight New 2MP Network Cameras At IFSEC 2016

Thet must have put the veil back on them after ISC...

I'll say right upfront; I work for Canon.

"models are not new and are already widely shipping, at least in the US"

They may be in the US, but there is a world outside the US, and they are not yet shipping in the EU. And IFSEC may call itself 'IFSEC International' it is however predominately an EU show so therefore it is news and worthy of the announcement and coverage in my personal view.

9, I was more critical of IFSEC labeling it an 'unveiling'. It's perfectly reasonable to show each new product in each region but it's a stretch to call a product available in other major markets an unveiling.

Also, the world is now global. People in the US read European press releases just as easily as Europeans read US press releases.

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