GoPro made a very risky bet in announcing its new camera

GoPro’s Fusion camera.
GoPro’s Fusion camera.
Image: GoPro
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The Fusion, the new high-definition, 360-degree video camera that GoPro announced today, could be exactly what the company needs. It’s been struggling for profitability, laying off large swathes of its workforce, and trying to figure out how to diversify beyond the tiny action cameras that it’s known for. The problem with today’s announcement is, you can’t buy a Fusion now, and it’s not clear when you’ll be able to.

At first glance, it looks like the evolution in the company’s core product that analysts and investors have been suggesting the company needs for years. It’s small, easy to use, and allows owners to create high-quality 360-degree videos without the need for giant, complicated multi-camera setups, like the ones GoPro and others have been developing. GoPro said on its website that the Fusion will work with many of the company’s existing accessories.

But the Fusion will initially only be available as a part of a “pilot program” that ”professional content creators” can apply for. The company declined to comment on what the camera would cost or when it would be more widely available to regular consumers. On its website GoPro says it’s planning for “a limited commercial release” by the end of 2017. The last big product the company promoted before its release was the Karma drone, which it first unveiled in late 2015. Its release was originally intended for May 2016, but it didn’t go on sale to consumers until October, and was then recalled for safety issues in November. The Karma went back on sale in February.

Hopefully Fusion won’t suffer a similar fate, but today’s announcement puts GoPro in a risky position. It needed to show investors that it’s working on new products, because it’s been seven months since it introduced a new camera (which was mainly just an update to its existing Hero and Session camera lines). Since then, GoPro hasn’t announced anything other than staff layoffs. But GoPro is also saying it likely won’t get the Fusion into consumers’ hands before the end of the year, so any optimism Wall Street has about the company’s future may be short-lived. GoPro’s stock price was up on the news, about 1.35% to $9 at the time of publishing—the company’s stock was once valued at around $85 in late 2014.

GoPro announces its quarterly earnings a week from today, so we’ll have a better understanding of just how important this new camera might be to the company’s long-term survival after refocusing on profitability.