At the summer 2014 Outdoor Retailer Show—the biggest trade show for vendors of outdoor goods—a competitor, Camera Pro, had unveiled an Underwater prototype called “Boilermaker” that displayed satellite imagery of certain Lakes. The imagery was not live, but rather static satellite photographs that had been “stitched” into a single view of particular lakes. This was a marked improvement on the simple, vector-based graphics used by the rest of the industry. This did not impress the UWCI team. The imagery was crisp and had a certain visual appeal, but UWCI’s research showed that Boilermaker technology did not offer substantive performance improvement over the standard maps in UWCI’s system. Furthermore, the UWCI team was convinced that Camera Pro’s adjustable LED lights in the units camera lagged UWCIs product in both accuracy and reception quality. However, the competitor’s unit was lighter in weight.
While the UWCI team dismissed the Camera Pro concept, a number of key buyers and product reviewers found it an exciting innovation. Based on the buzz, UWCI’s executives debated whether to upgrade to quality imagery on the screen display. However, they realized that adding the feature to the existing platform required upgrades to processor speed and memory, as well as new firmware. After some deliberation, the company dropped the idea as a non-essential fad. UWCI’s management remained confident that the company’s core customers were discerning purchasers who would value durability and performance over dressed-up graphics.
In October 2014, with much fanfare, Camera Pro introduced Boilermaker as “the only underwater camera with satellite imagery.” Boilermaker had an exclusive launch at two major national outdoor retailers, both of which were key accounts for UWCI. Within two months, UWCI’s sales representatives in the field reported impressive sell-through rates for Boilermaker nationwide. While the product’s success surprised UWCI, management attributed it to the ebullience of the deer kill shopping season. The UWCI team was confident that the popularity of Boilermaker wouldn’t last.