Thursday, January 05, 2012

Kodak teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, thanks to the digital photography revolution they helped invent

Kodak Teeters on the Brink

For a long time, Kodak and photography seemed synonymous to me. The company played a major role in the development of modern photography, and once its products were everywhere, and their R&D was state of the art.

I still have a few of their old metal film canisters. I used to have a couple of them taped to my camera strap. They were handy for storing all sorts of little things, not just film. For me, that familiar Kodak yellow was the color of photography, even when I was shooting black and white.

Now the headline in the Wall Street Journal reads Kodak Teeters on the Brink.
Eastman Kodak Co. is preparing to seek bankruptcy protection in the coming weeks, people familiar with the matter said, a move that would cap a stunning comedown for a company that once ranked among America's corporate titans.

The 131-year-old company is still making last-ditch efforts to sell off some of its patent portfolio and could avoid Chapter 11 if it succeeds, one of the people said. But the company has started making preparations for a filing in case those efforts fail, including talking to banks about some $1 billion in financing to keep it afloat during bankruptcy proceedings, the people said.
It's a sad day. This great American company was knocked for a loop by the digital revolution, but it's not as if Kodak failed to anticipate it. Far from it. They not only saw digital imaging coming, their labs were responsible for developing much of the technology. They still make some of the best imaging chips for specialized applications ranging from astronomy to medicine. Many of those patents they're now trying to sell off are for digital technology. But they never were able to figure out how to convert their technology into a viable digital business model. They knew the digital tipping point was coming, though the speed with which the film business collapsed may have come as a surprise. They didn't have much time to adapt. Nor the management vision, it seems.

Like Xerox with the desktop personal computer interface, they weren't able to take the ball and actually run with it.

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