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Four Thirds User talks to Olympus Imaging president Masaharu Okubo

Here is a transcription of a short interview with Masaharu Okubo, president of the Olympus Imaging Corporation

At last week's European launch of the Olympus Pen E-P1 in Berlin, the presence of Masaharu Okubo, president of Olympus Imaging Corporation, the division of Olympus responsible for cameras and lenses, underlined the importance of the European market to Olympus. Okubo san, who is a business strategist rather than a technical expert, took time out to conduct a short interview with Four Thirds User's editor, Ian Burley:

FTU: How concerned are you that Micro Four Thirds could be a distraction to the original Four Thirds system?

Mr. Okubo: I am very concerned to hear if people consider Micro Four Thirds to be a distraction to Four Thirds. The DSLR business, globally, is under ten percent of the overall digital camera market. Around twenty percent of compact digital camera users donít buy a DSLR though they want the picture quality of a DSLR. They donít like the size and difficulty of use in a DSLR. We are targeting Micro Four Thirds at this market, although we know that some DSLR users will like a camera such as the Pen E-P1 as well. Since we announced Micro Four Thirds, we have introduced the E-30, E-620, and E-450 DSLR models. It is certainly not our wish for Micro Four Thirds to be a distraction to the Four Thirds DSLR platform.

FTU: Do you hope and expect any new and active additions to the companies that represent Four Thirds and/or Micro Four Thirds?

Mr. Okubo: It is true that some of the brand names that are associated with the Four Thirds consortium have been less active than others. I do believe that Four Thirds will benefit from the addition of new names. I hope that we will see new names join us, but I cannot say any more than that. But, yes, I would like more names to join us.

FTU: We hear that the camera business is the least profitable part of Olympus overall. What are the challenges for Olympus during these difficult economic times?

Mr. Okubo: (smiles) Not actually the least profitable! But, yes, we are going through extremely challenging times, especially in Japan. It is crucial for us to lower the breakeven point and we have been working very hard to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

FTU: Do you expect the Micro Four Thirds business to, eventually, become larger than Four Thirds? If so, by what margin?

Mr. Okubo: It is impossible to say. In theory the Micro Four Thirds market could become larger, but it may take some time and I donít know when this would be.

FTU: What do you feel makes Olympus different from its competitors?

Mr. Okubo: I think all you need to do is look at the E-P1 (big smile).

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