Nikon today announced the Coolpix S800c, a point-and-shoot camera that is the company's first to run Android software. Specifically, the Wi-Fi connected camera runs a stock version of Google's Android 2.3 Gingerbread, including the ability to access the Google Play store and download apps. The front of the S800c looks like a typical point-and-shoot--complete with a 25-250mm (10x) zoom lens backed by a 16MP CMOS sensor-- but the back resembles a small smartphone with a 3.5" OLED capacitive touchscreen display. The $350 entry-level camera also shoots 1080p video and has built-in GPS.
While some people may be excited by the idea of loading up Dropbox or Instagram on their point-and-shoots, I'm very skeptical of this implementation. Judging by photos of the S800c's interface, it looks like the camera loads up to a familiar Android home screen upon startup, with icons for "shooting" and "play" for launching the camera into photo-taking or playback mode. This is exactly the kind of interface that I think is inappropriate for bringing apps to digital cameras. The way Nikon is implementing Android on the S800c makes it an Android device first, camera second. Is Nikon really expecting users to use its camera for browsing the web and checking email over their smartphones? That can't be the case, because the S800c isn't a capable smartphone replacement with no cellular connection. I still think the proper way to implement apps--whether with Android or a proprietary platform--on digital cameras is to design an interface that caters to photography, not Words with Friends. Launching Android on an entry-level point-and-shoot also is also telling of Nikon's confidence in its "smart camera" initiative; this doesn't feel like a serious effort to disrupt the digital camera space at all.