Surprise – shock, even – was the initial reaction of most in the industry to the announcement earlier this week of Canon’s intent to acquire Axis. Maybe it was the (apparent) suddenness of the move, or its scale ($2.8 billion!) that caught us off guard. Maybe it’s the continuing ripples the move is likely to cause through the industry that has us still talking about it.
It’s clearly the biggest story in our market in years. But after you think about it a couple of days, it all starts making more sense.
It’s like after you read the climax of a good mystery novel. Once you know whodunit, you can now look back and see there were plenty of clues scattered along the way. It makes sense, in a way, almost like we should have seen it coming. Maybe some in the market did see it coming, but their foresight was lost amid the perpetual undercurrent of “wonder what would happen if” and the rumors that drive good cocktail hour conversation in the security industry.
One clue was the proximity and shared history of Axis and Milestone, which Canon acquired last year. The two companies really grew up together in the market, located only about 50 miles away, Axis in Lund, Sweden, and Milestone just outside of Copenhagen, Denmark. They have cooperated from the start, have shared a common doctrine touting the value of IP video and open networked surveillance systems throughout the world. The two companies have worked hand-in-hand as the IP video market has evolved, providing the yin and yang of IP video systems, the software and the hardware (or at least one critical hardware component).
So when Canon bought one of the two (Milestone) last year, didn’t anyone think they might try to complete the matched set?
It seems likely this historically cooperative and productive working relationship will serve the new owner well as it seeks to unify the two companies into one (even if it’s one made up of two different, independently operating parts.) It’s almost inevitable that such collaboration will be a major focus going forward – and an interconnected culture developed over the formative years will be a major benefit as Canon faces the challenge of putting the two companies together.
As the market for Axis IP cameras slowed down, in part because of aggressive new competition from the Chinese, shouldn’t we have thought it might be time to reassess, realign, retrench and prepare to fight another day? Shouldn’t we have expected something big?
And did we doubt it when Canon (by acquiring Milestone) staked a claim on the surveillance market? Well, we believe it now. Clearly, Canon has succeeded in getting our attention.
Just days before this week’s big announcement, I wrote an ill-timed (in retrospect) item speculating how Axis might redirect/expand its business (based on a hint given by the founder). It’s obviously too soon to gauge what impact the new corporate owner might have on the scenario I suggested, which involved Axis branching out into other sensor categories. In any case, one would hope the company will continue to innovate under the new regime.
But one line I wrote just days ago, related to Axis’ “next move,” was somewhat prescient: “You might expect something dramatic.” At least I got that part right.