As smartphone imaging gets better, the market for point-and-shoot cameras has evaporated. Perhaps sensing this shift in the wind, Canon has signed a patent-licensing deal with Microsoft where both companies will have easy access to each other’s technological secrets. Dour-minded individuals may say that this is just some legal mutual arse-covering which is commonplace in these litigious times. That’s probably true, but wouldn’t it be great if we saw Canon’s imaging technology wind up in a future generation of PureView device? After all, the company does need some new expertise after its last expert defected to the other side.
Microsoft and Canon have announced a broad cross-licensing agreement which, potentially, could see Canon’s optics, lens and image processing technology find a way into future Nokia Lumia smartphones. The pact, announced earlier this week, allows the companies free access to each other’s patent portfolios, including “certain digital imaging and mobile consumer products.” Nokia mobile phones and then smartphones have long been renowned for their advanced imaging technology, such as the 41-megapixel Pureview devices like the Nokia Lumia 1020. The addition of Canon tech could give Microsoft an imaging advantage over Apple and Android manufacturers like Samsung and HTC moving forward. Traditionally Nokia had deployed Carl Zeiss lenses on its high-end smartphones, while pioneering its own market-leading sensors, such as the DSLR-sized one within the Pureview range. Nokia has also pushed out some fine imaging software in recent years, with its ever improving Nokia Camera app leading the way. Meanwhile, Microsoft may be envisioning the Canon partnership as a means of enhancing the Kinect sensor while, for Canon, could a Windows-powered digital camera be in the way?