4 things we just learned about the future of GoPro

Angry investors asked GoPro: Are action cameras dead? GoPro's response was rather revealing.

If you want an action camera, you'll probably buy a GoPro. An estimated 85 percent of buyers do. But what if nobody wants action cameras anymore? That's what investors have begun to fear after GoPro revealed last month that its sales were tanking -- down 31 percent compared to this time last year.

Now, GoPro's on the defensive -- and in the company's defense, CEO Nick Woodman just revealed what we should expect from the future of GoPro cameras.

In all, we learned four particularly intriguing things:

1. GoPro will stop selling three of its cheapest cameras in April.

GoPro currently sells six different cameras. It's a bit of a mess, to the point where our action camera expert, Josh Goldman, felt the need to write this CNET guide to help explain the differences.

But on today's financial earnings call, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman said he's cutting the camera line-up in half, by discontinuing the cheaper GoPro Hero, Hero+ and Hero+ LCD cameras starting this April.

"When you give consumers too many choices, you confuse them, and they may end up buying nothing," Woodman explained.

Now, the cube-shaped GoPro Hero4 Session will be the company's entry-level camera at $200, followed by the Hero4 Silver and Hero4 Black. It's funny to think of the Session as the low-end. Originally, it cost $400, but GoPro halved the price after poor sales. The company says sales tripled after the price cut, and they've now shipped over half a million of the tiny cameras.

Not quite the Elysian Fields.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

2. The GoPro Hero5 is coming later this year, and the focus is "connected and convenient."

It doesn't take a psychic to know that GoPro will try to release a new action camera each year, so it's no surprise that there's a Hero5 on the way. But it sure sounds like GoPro's next flagship camera is going to be a little bit different than those that have come previously.

According to Woodman, the Hero5 will be "the most connected and convenient GoPro we have ever made."

And that word "convenient" could be more significant than you'd think. When a financial analyst on GoPro's earnings call asked whether the action camera market was shrinking, here's what CEO Nick Woodman had to say:

"GoPro as we have known it today has resonated with our core customer, who wants the solution so badly that they are willing to deal with the inconvenience of manually offloading and accessing and editing their content. But we are self-aware and we're willing to acknowledge that experience is too difficult for the mass market consumer, today."

3. New GoPro desktop software is coming this March, and it could make sharing easier.

Speaking of the "the inconvenience of manually offloading and accessing and editing their content," there's a new desktop application coming in March called "GoPro for desktop."

Here's how Woodman described that: "GoPro for desktop represents a breakthrough in convenient offload, access and editing of GoPro content. It provides tools to easily sort large amounts of footage as well as trim and share directly to Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms."

Separately, GoPro is creating new editing software slated for later this year, which will let you produce "strikingly good edits in a matter of minutes," according to the company.

4. GoPro's drone and virtual-reality camera rig will be available by summer.

Technically, we already knew that the GoPro Karma drone and the newly christened GoPro Omni virtual reality camera rig were coming this summer. Still, we think you might like to read what GoPro CEO Nick Woodman said about these new opportunities on the earnings call.

Apparently, we should expect the still-under-wraps Karma aerial photography drone to be a little bit different from the likes of the DJI Phantom that currently owns the category. "We're seeking to be extremely differentiated from what existing drone companies are offering in the marketplace...they have their approach, and we have ours," said Woodman.

And while Woodman didn't spend much time talking about virtual reality GoPro cameras -- especially not the "casual" consumer-oriented VR camera he mentioned at CES last month -- he did suggest that new products will change the way that we think of GoPro.

The word "action camera" implies danger, said Woodman, but danger isn't a prerequisite. "I think we prefer GoPro as the world's leading activity capturing company," he said, noting that unlike traditional cameras, the point of a GoPro is to allow you to film yourself.

According to the company, GoPro has now sold 20 million cameras in total.

Editor's note: While Woodman didn't specify which VR camera he was talking about on the earnings call, a GoPro representative confirmed to me that the Omni rig is the one coming this summer.

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