Panono announced yesterday that they’ve filed for bankruptcy. What will happen now?
Panono is the highest resolution all-in-one 360 camera, with 36 lenses and 108 megapixels (in fact, the equirectangular stitched photo is 134 megapixels). I recently showed its spectacular image quality.
Despite being an excellent product, Panono is quite costly. It used to be $1,500 which was already expensive, then they raised the price to $2,000. With such a high price, there could only be so much demand for it.
Yesterday, Panono announced that they were filing for bankruptcy (I saw the announcement only this morning).
Bankruptcy doesn’t necessarily mean that Panono will close shop. I’m not a bankruptcy lawyer, so take this with a grain of salt: in bankruptcy, a company declares that it cannot pay its debts as they come due. The court appoints an administrator to control the company for the best interests of the creditors. In Germany, as in the US, there are two kinds of bankruptcy filings: one for liquidation and one for reorganization. With liquidation, the assets are sold to pay creditors. With reorganization, debts are renegotiated so that the business can continue to operate. My understanding is that Panono filed for a reorganization.
For existing Panono users, the concern is about the cloud stitching program. Unlike almost all other 360 cameras, Panono stitches its images in the cloud rather than through a desktop app. With the bankruptcy filing, it is not clear whether this service will continue, nor has Panono said whether they will release the stitching program.
Please understand: what follows is simply my speculation. I could be totally wrong.
I don’t think they will simply discontinue the stitching service because that would have a huge negative impact on the value of their inventory of Panonos, as well as the value of the intellectual property for the Panono’s design.
But the question is, how will the stitching service continue, moving forward? My guess is that the intellectual property for the stitching and processing algorithm is valuable and therefore I doubt that they will simply give away the stitching program. More likely, they will find a way to maintain the status quo, or it will be a paid service, or they will sell the stitching program separately.
But in the worst case scenario, if the stitching service is discontinued completely, it is nonetheless possible to stitch Panono with a 3rd party program. See my exclusive tutorial.
As for the Panono itself, I think they will conclude that it is not economical to produce the Panono in limited quantities. It drives the price too high. There would likely be more overall profit if the price were $1,000 or less. The problem is that would require a large investment — and risk.
It’s possible that Panono would court investors, or they could sell their technology. It would be nice if Ricoh would produce the Panono because there is a big difference between Panono and the Theta, so they would complement rather than compete with each other. Unfortunately, Ricoh Pentax is a small company that I would guess is probably not in a financial position to make such an investment.
There are other possible candidates with larger financial resources that are also interested in 360. GoPro might be one. They’re a large company with the resources to make the investment. The problem is that GoPro seems more interested in video rather than photo. So I doubt they would step in.
So… a large company that is also interested in 360…. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
Yes, Samsung fits that description. Samsung is one of the largest companies in the world. An investment in Panono would be a drop in the bucket for them. They’ve also been very interested in 360, with the Samsung Gear 360 and Samsung Gear VR. Perhaps they could be interested.
What about the backers for the Kickstarter? Unfortunately, they’re probably on the lowest spot on the totem pole. Panono has no obligation to pay them anything (it’s not even a loan). It’s very unlikely that they can argue that Panono intended to defraud them (I doubt any lawyer would take that case). The bankruptcy administrator will probably simply cancel their “orders,” which would improve the financial status of Panono right away at very little cost. Backers might get a token such as a discount on Panono if they choose to buy it at MSRP.
Anyway, like I said, this is all speculation. We’ll have to wait and see. I would love to see Panono come out of this stronger because it’s still the best 360 camera I’ve found for photography.
In the meantime, you may also be interested in Panohero. For full disclosure, I’m not satisfied with the stitching errors on the Yi with the Panohero. I’ve gotten a GoPro and will try it out with Panohero for GoPro.
P.S. It appears that Ocam, the company that makes Staro, is not currently in active operations, just in case you were thinking of that.