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The Rise and Fall of Kodak

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the what's-a-film-reel-grandpa dept.

Businesses 352

H_Fisher writes "Michael Hiltzik of the L.A. Times writes with a frank look at the decisions and changes that have led to Kodak's decline from top U.S. photography company to a company whose product is almost irrelevant. He writes: '[Kodak] executives couldn't foresee a future in which film had no role in image capture at all, nor come to grips with the lower profit margins or faster competitive pace of high-tech industries.' He also notes that Kodak's story comes as a cautionary tale to giants like Google and Facebook."

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Rochester (5, Interesting)

macsox (236590) | more than 2 years ago | (#38274876)

I wrote an article about the impact of Kodak on Rochester, New York [] , the city it built. Some interesting context about how technology built a city - twice.

Re:Rochester (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275070)

Upstate NY sucks cock, film at 11.

Re:Rochester (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275368)

No, it doesn't.

Re:Rochester (-1, Offtopic)

medicthree (125112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275738)

No, it doesn't.

Yes it does!

Re:Rochester (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#38276096)

Jeez - I know it's December but it's not quite panto season. Someone will be yelling "He's behind you" next

Re:Rochester (4, Informative)

StopKoolaidPoliticsT (1010439) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275306)

Kodak's decline obviously had an effect on Rochester, but the total ineptness of government combined with the people's failure to hold the government responsible had more to do with the fall of the city. Crazy spending, high taxes, race problems causing white flight starting in the 60s, anti-business regulations like the NET offices, one party government, an unaccountable school system, a police system that was so bad that Rochester because the murder capital of NY and required the State Troopers to work with local police to get minor crimes under control, etc.

Business, not just Kodak, has fled Rochester and skilled workers need to follow the businesses to get jobs. Meanwhile, thanks to NY's lax and generous welfare policies, people are coming in to suck off the government's teat. The state itself is tone deaf since all that matters to the state is Albany and NYC. Of course, the fact that the incompetent police chief turned mayor that caused half the problems above got promoted to Lt Governor means that we'll chuck some more money on wasteful projects like his grand idea to buy and tear Midtown down to the tune of tens of mllions at taxpayer expense, only to turn it around to a business that never actually signed a contract to develop the land in the way he announced. Oh, and the property was in tax arrears and could have been foreclosed on, but why bother when he's not spending his own money to buy it?

Kodak, while painful, has been the least of Rochester's problems... and today, it's almost irrelevant, save for the outdated, often abandoned, infrastructure they've left all over the city.

Re:Rochester (1, Offtopic)

HermMunster (972336) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275338)

Today with the MPAA and RIAA bribing (err lobbying) Capital Hill to protect them (protectionism), and the patent system being used to kill innovation, to kill competition, one has to wonder why Kodak had the issue they had. Why didn't they just exert that they needed to keep their business alive (because it would save jobs) and get Congress to block any new technologies that created competition and that took jobs away. Hell, Kodak was the start of a whole industry. Their technology was taken and used by virtually every company that came out with a digital alternative.

I just can't see why they couldn't fight against their competition through lobbying efforts on Capital Hill. Really, what is the issue here? They should have been pushing to protect their IP instead they let everyone with a modicum intelligence with new modern business models run them into the ground. Kodak could have done more. Now they are virtually dead and it didn't take too long to make that happen--only a couple decades.

Yeah, I'm being facetious, but it does ring true in some regards. They were too slow to react to the digital craze, but not so slow that they didn't enter the field nor have a chance to produce something. There are players in their arena that started long after they went digital.

Maybe they didn't protect their shareholder value the way the MPAA and RIAA are, nor how Microsoft is with their offshoot corporation "Intellectual Ventures". Hell, Microsoft is taking every strategy in the playbook to attack open source right now. You can see they are running scared (or trying to buy time to build something innovative again (only I don't believe they have innovation in their soul)).

Content vs medium (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275456)

The big difference was Kodak produced the medium and not the content.
If they were smart, they would have been buying the copyright on every photograph they could get their hands on
and not just sold film.

There's nothing new here (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38274892)

Companies already know what happens when you don't continue to innovate. The book:The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business goes into great detail and is basic reading at most business schools.

Re:There's nothing new here (0)

MichaelKristopeit501 (2018074) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275530)

and what if kodak stopped "developing" their film industry in the 80's and focused completely on digital photography? they would have gone bankrupt much sooner.

Anonymous Cowards: The Morons that Will Change the Way You Think About Ignorant Hypocrisy.

go buy another book, feeb.

you're an idiot.

Re:There's nothing new here (5, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275582)

The ironic thing is that Kodak pretty much invented digital photography long before it was practical to implement as a consumer product. They probably had the closest thing to genuinely inventive patents. Although it would have been a tragedy if they were able to set back the industry like Apple wants to.

Re:There's nothing new here (0)

MichaelKristopeit502 (2018076) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275708)

sure... kodak "pretty much" invented digital photography.... if you ignore texas instruments and numerous government agencies.

you're pretty much an idiot, jed.

Re:There's nothing new here (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275970)

I suggest Mein Kampf, Atlas Shrugged, and The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. All great reads and will revolutionalize your sex positions and political life.

Re:There's nothing new here (4, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275696)

Hind sight is 20/20. There are also companies that died because they adopted a new fad technology. And lost too much money that they went out of business and should have stuck with their old model.

For example Saturn cars (yes it was oned by GM) but they got popular on the small car with little frills. Then when gas prices were at a low they jumped ship and started making SUV and sport cars. And hitting the quality on their small car line.
Gas prices rose. Saturn lost because it didn't have cars the people wanted.

Jump on the wrong fad you get hurt too. It is easy to mock Kodak but the digital camera faze may have ended with some software just not easy enough to share photos. Or broad band was just too expensive for the market. Or color printers prices remained high price and offered infeaor pictures.

Will the iPad and touch tablets stay popular. Or will windows 8 on multitouch laptops take the cheese.
A lot of companies are investing in getting the newest tablet to trump apples IPad, but what if tablets just reach their peak the holiday season then die down?
Do we skoff at the people who blindly jumped on the tablet fad? Even though right now it seems the hot new tech?

Re:There's nothing new here (1)

MichaelKristopeit403 (1978294) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275882)

my wife just bought a used saturn SUV... it was a great deal and a great car that we (real people) wanted. saturn lost because they quit.

you're an idiot.

Re:There's nothing new here (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38276074)

Maybe you should make more money so you can buy a real car.

Re:There's nothing new here (1)

MichaelKristopeit403 (1978294) | more than 2 years ago | (#38276240)

... so... maybe i shouldn't? you're an idiot.

i drive a new acura TL type S, and a yamaha R1.

maybe you should be less presumptuous.

why do you cower in my shadow? what are you afraid of?

you're completely pathetic.

Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either. (5, Interesting)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38274898)

Kodaks whole business was founded on film development. The whole idea was that they sell the cameras cheap and charge for the development. Was that way going back to the glass plate days. Simply put, they where rendered irrelevant by digital photography which is the exact oposite market. Expensive cameras, free "film". While its sad to see them go, they are more or less a lost cause now.

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (4, Insightful)

bigredradio (631970) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275018)

more or less a lost cause now

I would say less. If they were able to cut their expenses to the bone, then take on additional funding to create innovative imaging products, then they would have a shot. Their brand recognition is still worth a lot. There are a lot of people over 30 who will have some trust in new Kodak products.

Unfortunately, they have tried to create products by copying the status quo. They should raid developers and designers from Apple and try a fresh start.

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (4, Informative)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275108)

I wouldn't be shocked if a company like Pentax (who has good digital products but limited consumer name recognition) to buy the Kodak name for use in a new low end consumer product line.

But Kodak is still trying to cling to the film business. Their new products are things like a digital camera with a built in printer, sort of a hybrid version of their older instant cameras. People just dont seem interested.

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275216)

I thought that was Poleroid. Anyway, people still print their digital pictures, but the paper has to be less than $5 a sheet...

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (5, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275314)

And ironically Kodaks business plan of sell the camera for cost and over charge for the film is alive and well in the printer/ink business.

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275630)

They are kind of like cameras, they just usually print really boring photos.

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (1)

Forbman (794277) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275768)

Except it's HP that has the corner on that business model.

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275890)

How's Lexmark doing in that corner of the business world these days?

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (3, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275556)

I find it interesting that the Kodak name plus their patent portfolio, only nets a $300M market cap. They must have a lot of liabilities to drag them down that low.

Pentax already got bought out (2)

dinodriver (577264) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275816)

Pentax was bought by Ricoh, so that Ricoh would have a brand with better name recognition!

Re:Pentax already got bought out (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275906)

Sounds like Ricoh should have waited and bought Kodak.

I'm not a camera buff, but I do recognise both names - but as a consumer Kodak is a much bigger name.

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275118)

I worked on a project with Kodak to do a project for a company that dealt with disposable camera's and photo galleries. It by itself was an amazing idea and very useful even now, however they we're horrible and the project failed horribly. The world has left them behind.

In a world where they had to do little more than free image galleries and the brand could have killed off a flicker years late, they continued to throw away everything they built.

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (1)

MichaelKristopeit502 (2018076) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275548)

I worked on a project with Kodak, [...] however they we're horrible

freudian? i believe you were horrible.

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (1)

Algae_94 (2017070) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275240)

Could they adapt? Sure, but that requires the company changing completely and going into a business they don't understand as well.

The issue is that a company that lived and breathed film is now in a world that doesn't use film. When there is some sort of paradigm shift in an industry, the old giants are set in their ways. Even if they have the resources to re-tool and get with the times, do they really have what it takes to stay relevant? And other than some nostalgia of a long known name disappearing, does it matter if new names take over as time goes by?

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (3, Interesting)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275614)

I don't think so.

The problem for Kodak is that photography is more and more stratifying itself into two major categories:

1. High-quality digital camers
2. Cell phone cameras

Kodak built its business on cheap cameras that anyone could afford, and, of course, the film. Cell phones are now increasingly replacing Kodak's old niche in the photography world, and they've never really been known for expensive high-quality equipment. Going electronic & digital was simply not enough, they would need to break into an entirely new market or product type to stay alive.

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (4, Informative)

Entropius (188861) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275808)

They had an angle into that market; they made CCD's for high-end digital SLR's for a long time. I know they sold sensors to Olympus, among others, for years. Olympus wound up switching to Panasonic as a sensor supplier for technical reasons related to video capture, but lots of folks still swear by the old Kodak sensor cameras.

Attn Kodak execs: The RIAA is waiting to hire you! (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275052)

'[Kodak] executives couldn't foresee a future in which film had no role in image capture at all, nor come to grips with the lower profit margins or faster competitive pace

Hmmmmm ... where have I seen that behavior before?

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (1)

2fuf (993808) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275138)

I remember in University when I was studying Physics (around 1995), I used the very last glass plate we had for a double split experiment practicum paper I had to write. End of an era :-)

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275198)

The thing is, Kodak was a frontrunner in digital cameras. They build the first. They had the first DSLR 20 years ago (with funky shoulder-stray storage and power units, like the lasers in Akira).

They just pissed it away by the way of bad decisions.

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (5, Informative)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275310)

No, they didn't make the first DSLR 20 years ago. What they did was basically sell an add-on that attached to your Nikon SLR to make it digital. Kodak never made any DSLRs themselves; they were always digital backs, or based on Canon or Nikon bodies, or sometimes just rebranded Canons or Nikons.

There's a huge market for camera components. Film is dead (at least for stills, film is slowly moving that way), but the DSLR market is alive and well, and companies like Sony are making a fortune selling camera modules to go into the iPhone and other devices.

Kodak could have been selling millions of mobile camera modules, or competing with Nikon and Canon for the high-end, but they're not.

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (2)

Entropius (188861) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275862)

They did that -- they made CCD's for several DSLR's for a long while. Olympus got their sensors from Kodak for their DSLR's for years, and they also made some very high-end medium format sensors for Hasselblads and so on. Not sure why they wound up failing in this market, really; Olympus left them because they wanted a partnership with Panasonic for other reasons, not because there was anything fundamentally wrong with the images from the Kodak sensors.

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (3, Interesting)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#38276132)

Right, but at that point they should have been making their own cameras instead of just the sensor. They had a lock on the entire camera market at one point, but for some reason it seems that they never actually made their own digital cameras, just rebranded or added on to other companies'.

The make-your-own-camera-module thing became more important as cellphones started getting cameras integrated (even when they were crap, a lot of phones had them, and there was money there even then). It wasn't (and isn't) realistic for Kodak to have made their own cellphone, but they could have gotten a chunk of the camera module market. At this point, that's probably even a much bigger market than the rest of the camera market combined; every cellphone, tablet, handheld game console sold, they all have camera modules, and Kodak isn't the one making them. Sony makes a lot of them, even for their competitors. And I've no idea who makes the camera modules in the 3DS, but it's got *THREE* of the things. More and more cellphones these days have at least two cameras...

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (2)

Macgrrl (762836) | more than 2 years ago | (#38276174)

I worked for a digital imaging reseller back in the early '90s. We were a Kodak agent and sold the Kodak DCS series of camera and the LEAF camera backs. The Kodaks used a standard Nikon SLR camera body. There were options for an infra-red and aerial photography filmbacks. They were fairly advanced when you think about it.

They released a DCS with burst capture and voice annotations for the '92 Olympics for sports photographers.

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (3, Informative)

stuckinarut (891702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275256)

A few excerpts from Kodak develops: A film giant's self-reinvention [] (Feb 2010) seem to suggest they just couldn't transition fast enough rather than became irrelevant.

... every Oscar winner for Best Motion Picture in the past 81 years has used Kodak film... 65 percent of Kodak's business now comes from business-to-business products and 70 percent of them are digital. Hayzlett's message is simple: every aspect of Kodak's business has been reinvigorated by winds of change.

The usual explanation is that Kodak failed to see the approach of digital.

In fact, Kodak was more than ahead of its competitors: it invented the digital camera -- even though it lacked the foresight to exploit it.

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (4, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275620)

I am not sure about the expectation that a corporation should exist forever, or that shrinkage and eventual folding is bad. Really it is this idea that a firm should be forever, and all the effort to make it happen, that creates inefficiencies in the free market.

Kodak provided a good product, and it innovated both in the pro and consumer market. The stuff it did really brought photography to the masses, and high end photography to the pros. The cameras allowed us to take pictures. The film allowed us to accurately reproduce those pictures. The technology was not trivial.

The think is that it is simply not cost effective to do a good job printing pictures that can just be reprinted. Archival for the family is no longer an issue. So the quality that Kodak represented is no longer needed. Which means lower markup and therefore an inability to pay for the bloated management that all corporation build up over time. This is why we need firms to go under, fire all the management, and sell all the assets. It frees up managers that are good to start more efficient ventures, and allows inefficient managers to no longer be a drag on the system. With the current idea that corporations are imortal, we have manager vampires feeding off the workers and consumers without providing any real value.

So is there a lesson here. Yes, to the inefficient manager, be ready to be thrown out into the street. Which won't happen, as there will always be banks and courts that perpetuate the efficiency of aristocratic class. Kodak can go. They represent and inefficient past. Not buggy inefficient, but perhaps heating stove inefficient.

Re:Horse and buggy companies didn't make it either (2)

carlzum (832868) | more than 2 years ago | (#38276038)

Kodak may have a fighting chance in an "expensive camera, free film" market. Unfortunately for Kodak, it's becoming a free camera, nonexistent film market. The article argues Kodak's problem is worse than the auto or entertainment industries because their core products are still in demand, they just need to adapt.

Even in hindsight, I'm not sure what they could have done other than using their capital to move into another industry. Digital cameras and picture frames, printers, printing services... they had relative success with many of those technologies and it didn't help. I agree with you, sadly, Kodak is a lost cause.

Reminds Me Of Slashdot (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38274956)

This site was one of the pioneers of tech blogs in the early days of the Internet. Then other tech blogs came, then fb commenting came and now twitter has made slashdot a total non-entity. In fact, the fact this site looks virtually the same and has no real new features in years shows how much the rest of the tech world has passed them by.

In short, Kodak = slashdot. May they both rest in peace.

Re:Reminds Me Of Slashdot (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275056)

Actually I'd say the attempts at new features (eg. idle, poorly done 'Web2.0') have done more to harm /. than stagnancy.

Re:Reminds Me Of Slashdot (2)

Junta (36770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275134)

I concur on idle, but on the 'web 2.0' functions, I really haven't noticed a downside in the long run. I have to confess creating a comment is far less intrusive than it was before and the structure for discussions hasn't changed too much. I will say sometimes the filtering has unfortunate consequences compared to old days (e.g. comments that are in reply to something modded into oblivion have no visual cue indicating they are a reply to anything instead of a top level post, leaving me sometimes scratching my head at the impetus for a post before realizing they must have been replying to someone).

Obviously feeding a troll, but... (5, Insightful)

Junta (36770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275086)

I want to say I enjoy slashdot as one of the few sites actually implementing a nice and full threaded discussion system. We aren't talking about obsolescence, but rather a preference. Too many discussion systems either reorder posts, support no or one level of reply, and other such silly limitations.

Aside from that, the quality of commentators tends to be higher. More often than not, someone related to or very keenly aware of the subject of a story chimes in with additional data whereas most other forums explode in a barrage of inane chatter, trolls and woefully misinformed people. Yes, slashdot is subjected to that as well *but* if we are grading on a curve here, slashdot's community comes out pretty good.

Re:Obviously feeding a troll, but... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275580)

Off-topic -1

Re:Obviously feeding a troll, but... (2)

Falconhell (1289630) | more than 2 years ago | (#38276162)

I have to agree, whislt there are the trolls and morons, the good comments here are much more common than elsewhere,
I have learned more about many subjects here than i have learned form the whole of the rest of the internets foums.
Sick of people complaining if you dont like it dont come here!

Re:Reminds Me Of Slashdot (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275090)

Sad but true. Mods should push this up to +5 Insightful, but will they?

Re:Reminds Me Of Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275728)

I've been on Slashdot for more than 10 years. I was on FaceBook for 10 weeks and deleted everything I could, and haven't logged back on. I post mostly AC on Slashdot now simply because I don't want anymore of myself on the Internet than there already is. I'm more likely to drop the whole concept of posting on the Internet with any kind of identity as opposed to dropping Slashdot itself. It has become somewhat tiresome. After a while, all the arguments are the same (ooh look, another semantic debate...)

Re:Reminds Me Of Slashdot (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38276118)

Perhaps, but you'll never get "In Soviet Russia" threads from Facebook or Twitter.

Slow to adapt. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38274982)

They could have used their name to make digital cameras fly off the shelf, but they consistently built the crappiest brand name digital cameras I've seen. They should have embraced change, but their lackluster, half-assed adaptations flopped.

Re:Slow to adapt. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275088)

Crappy cameras, crappy drivers, and crappy support.

In fact, they were under review by the Better Business Bureau due to the excessive number of complaints and the unsatisfactory resolutions / lack thereof, and given an "Unsatisfactory" rating by the BBB, at which point they decided to simply eschew the Better Business Bureau, take their dice and go home. Apparently the BBB's high standards were just not in line with the Eastman Kodak Company way of doing things.

And partnering with Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275286)

Remember the Quicktake?

A cautionary tale indeed (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38274984)

This story should also come as a cautionary tale to the recording industry!

Re:A cautionary tale indeed (4, Insightful)

Junta (36770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275094)

They already 'learned' a lesson:
New technology *will* destroy your business model, so destroy the technology while you still have power!

Next, paper. (5, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275024)

The paper industry is feeling the pinch, too. Newspapers are dying, and paper mills are closing. The latest generation of computer users feels little desire to print anything. The paper industry had a "put it on paper" promotion. That seems to have disappeared.

Paper requires an infrastructure. In business, paper implies filing, filing cabinets, folders, record storage, file clerks, trash cans, shredders, staplers, paper clips, paper recycling, and other cost items. This not only increases cost, it increases head count and makes outsourcing and offshoring harder.

Printed forms are really expensive. Someone has to fill them out, they have to be moved around, sorted, and filed. and probably entered into into a computer at some point. It's been a long time since a forms manufacturer could advertise "the world is run on tracks of printed paper".

There are still many businesses with a lot of legacy paper, but the trend is down.

Re:Next, paper. (2)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275136)

I hear paper mail and its infrastructure is in decline too, but many slashdotters wailed about a country needing a national paper mail pushing system. But reality means cuts will further erode revenue in a negative feedback spiral. USPS is going down, hard

Re:Next, paper. (4, Insightful)

zdammit (1143747) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275414)

I hear paper mail and its infrastructure is in decline too, but many slashdotters wailed about a country needing a national paper mail pushing system. But reality means cuts will further erode revenue in a negative feedback spiral. USPS is going down, hard

Really? In my country the decline in letters has been compensated for by an increase in packages, from online sales. So the postal system is changing but not declining.

Re:Next, paper. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275888)

Here most of that is done through the private carriers: UPS, FedEx, and DHL.

I don't know why, though. Whenever I'm sending anything I get better customer service and lower rates from the post office. Maybe the private carriers are better for large businesses or something? Just speculation.

Re:Next, paper. (2)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275656)

I have one additional argument against print:

When was the last time you went to a store and searched for a specific book?

It's tough. I'm doing a research project on digital distribution vs. physical retail, focusing on product availability and pricing. As part of that, I physically went to several stores and checked against a list of products.

The Barnes & Noble was terribly organized. Books were sorted vaguely by genre, then author - except teen literature, which goes in a separate set of shelves, and bestsellers are only up at the front, and "classics" go on yet another shelf. And then how do you classify certain things? Is Stephen King "horror" or just general "fiction"? Is C. S. Lewis "kid's", "teen" or "general" (as well as under "religious", "fantasy" or "general" within that)? And with Chinese names, do you go by the last name, or the actual family name?

I literally could not find several books without the aid of an employee. And they were still missing three books, all bestsellers of some sort (one was on last week's NYT list, the other two were lifetime, international bestsellers). If you can't even find books that are popular, I can only imagine how hard it would be to find an obscure, or even uncommon book. And even if the book is there, you may not be able to find it.

And yet the Nook site, run by the very same company, I can find everything I can think to look for. Ancient Greek plays? Check. Medieval poetry translated from Latin into German? Check. How-to guide for OS/2? They don't have the eBook, but they're willing to point me to a paperback.

Even if they could print books for free and teleport them into the store, I think I would still do my book shopping online. It's simply not worth the hassle to try to find an actual specific book in their stores.

(I did, for comparison's sake, check the Wal-Mart books section. If you were to judge solely by that, you could legitimately declare literature dead - it had not a single one of the all-time bestsellers like "A Tale of Two Cities" or "The Catcher in the Rye" or "The Lord of the Rings". They probably got rid of that to make room for an entire row dedicated to Twilight, Twilight documentaries, Twilight biographies, and Twilight magazines.)

Re:Next, paper. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275758)

Because bookstores aren't build for going in with a list and finding exactly those titles. They are built for browsing by general catagory. I enjoy good bookstores when I don't know what I want to buy. Online when I do know.

It was all (4, Funny)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275036)

One big Kodak moment.

Why just cautionary for Google and Facebook? (4, Insightful)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275040)

It's lesson for all businesses: adapt or become irrelevant. Look at IBM. They used to make tabulating machines. Now they make most of their money selling services. Some industries change at a glacial pace (e.g. oil, cement, Christmas trees) so companies entrenched here can take their time adapting to new realities whereas other industries change pace almost daily (e.g. fashion), so companies in these industries also need to adapt very quickly (e.g. Coach, LV, etc.).

Re:Why just cautionary for Google and Facebook? (4, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275174)

of course, IBM services are all about unnecessarily complex projects that are time and money sink holes. With the economy tightening up, we can only hope enough businesses see through these scams to make IBM irrelevant and out of that business.

Re:Why just cautionary for Google and Facebook? (3, Funny)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275396)

Mod parent up. If you're not part of the solution, there's money to be made in prolonging the problem.

Re:Why just cautionary for Google and Facebook? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275502)

They sell one VERY big unspoken service: Blame Hedging. You know the adage, "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM", and it still means that if something goes really wrong your boss is going to chew up their sales/support reps instead of $middle_manager.

Re:Why just cautionary for Google and Facebook? (2)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275870)

IBM's market cap has bounced back. Surprisingly they're worth more than Microsoft again. Companies to look at for "Failure to adapt" might include RIM, Nokia, HP.

Re:Why just cautionary for Google and Facebook? (2)

Locutus (9039) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275230)

and some companies spent lots of their profits fighting new ideas and stomping them out. Read the book "StartUp" for an old look at how Microsoft stomped out the first tablet computer company almost 20 years ago. Then there's the oil industry and how they purchased the patent to NiMH batteries and won't let them be used in electric cars. Kodak just let the world pass them by and that's ok in some regards because they didn't prevent new ideas and products from having a chance in the market like a few others have. There's another book out called something like "The Innovators Dilemma" which addresses how new ideas can replace slow to change large companies. No doubt Bill Gates has read that one and told Steve Ballmer about it.


Re:Why just cautionary for Google and Facebook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275516)

There are a lot of books called "StartUp", I think you need to give an author, ISBN, or subtitle.

Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275616)

Jerry Kaplan

Re:Why just cautionary for Google and Facebook? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275410)

If you get the annual reports you'd see that the plurality of IBM's revenue is Software and the majority of the profit is Software.
IBM Credit Corporation comes in 2nd, and services and hardware vie for last place.

Re:Why just cautionary for Google and Facebook? (2)

herojig (1625143) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275908)

Thx for pointing this out. It's rare folks here on /. speak from fact, so that was refreshing. As a retiree from IBMs software division, it seems to me that Kodak could re-invent itself just as IBM has done so many times over the course of their business career. IBM is great at cultivating and milking a technology until the teet runs dry, and then selling it off. The proof of this strategic success is in the stock - very nice.

Exit Kodak, Enter Facebook (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275106)

Kodak gave us the film roll, color slides, digital imaging and OLED

Facebook has so far given us a way to stalk our high school bullies

Photogs? (3, Interesting)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275124)

I wonder what part 'photogs' (why can't they call themselves photographers? weird.) played in this.

You know the ones, that - even as recent as 2 years ago - still claimed digital was crap, film was here to stay as a vastly superior medium, that no professional would ever adopt digital, etc. etc. etc. The very same people Kodak probably had intimate relationships with from marketing through research.

Not laying blame, just saying.. perhaps Kodak laid too much importance on their opinions, trusting them to be 'right' as they had been for decades earlier.

Re:Photogs? (4, Interesting)

Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275366)

Kodak committed suicide in the mid 90s when management spun off Eastman Chemical, pharmaceutical and medical divisions. Management received nice bonuses though.

Re:Photogs? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38276218)

I worked at Kodak from 1981 through 1998, so I was there during this. Eastman Chemical was a good fit, but Sterling Drug should never have been bought, it had nothing to do with the core businesses, but Kodak could have survived with it. Colby Chandler was an idiot who did a lot to bring Kodak down, but the real killer was George Fisher, who replaced him to "save" the company. The only thing Fisher saved were his bonuses. At the end of each of his five years there, he sold off just enough of the company to meet his "profit" goals, leaving the company decimated when his time was up. He's the son of a bitch who killed Kodak.

Re:Photogs? (2)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275438)

'photogs' (why can't they call themselves photographers? weird.)

Must be a regional thing or something, because I know of no photographers who refer to themselves as "photogs". Not even the youngins.

Re:Photogs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275482)

Well, as I know the film side of Kodak is one of the only things still making them money. They have introduced several new film over the last few years and they are EXCELLENT. Better the stuff Fuji, their only serious competitor in the field is producing. (Fuji is still doing well afaik and film is still going strong in Japan)
They also (still) sell a lot of film to Hollywood, both for actual filming but also for archival purposes, as all films shot on digital are also archived on film.

The 'photogs' you are referring to are partly straw-men.
Maybe 10 years ago, when digital was not up to the task in most areas, you would hear a lot of these opinions.
These days, most people who shoot film, do it because they like the way it looks.
It's especially prominent in the art field, 35mm for 'low-fi' stuff, and medium or even large format for the exceptional quality made possible with these formats.
The 'pros' (wedding photographers, journalists, fashion/commercial etc.) have done the pragmatic thing and shoot mostly digital these day,

The place Kodak really dropped the ball was their digital imaging business.
The irony is that Kodak were pioneers in the field and had good sensor technology.
They were just unable to make any desirable products.

I should be remembered though, that Kodak was really never a camera company, but a film company. They didn't really have the expertise in making cameras.
Most of the cameras they made pre-digital were some really cheap point 'n' shoots.

Re:Photogs? (5, Interesting)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275726)

From my perspective, they played very little part. The signs of digital's dominance have been around for a decade, at least..

Real, trained, professional photographers adopted digital photography as early as 2000. It meant they could take hundreds of pictures of an event, with practically no overhead cost. An assistant could pick out the few not-terrible shots, and they would be sent to the traditional lab (or a minilab) for printing.

The first megapixel cameras were still slower than film cameras, so a good photographer going to an event (such as a wedding) would have a digital camera on hand for routine use (like taking pictures of the bridal party, preparations, and decorations), but still keep a film camera loaded and ready for moments of action (like exchanging rings), hoping for that perfect shot when something spectacular happens (like when the groom goes diving for the falling ring).

Photography (when done well) is a fast-paced and high-risk business. If a wedding photographer misses some special moment because they were reloading a camera, they can and do get sued. When digital became even remotely practical (several thousand dollars for a 2-megapixel DSLR), professionals jumped at the opportunity.

That improvement didn't come without its own problems, though. Many labs couldn't handle the differences in workflows, and that drove up their prices. Now, lab prices aren't very high compared to photographers' rates (about $10 for an 8x10 with finishing coat and manual retouching (which will be the comparison henceforth), compared to the $20-$50 that the photographer will likely charge), but the lack of integration also meant that orders often were lost, delayed, or damaged, and storing several gigabytes of pictures (at $10/GB) for each event was impractical for a small studio. As workflows, cameras, and hard disks improved, film became less important as a fallback, and digital was very clearly the future.

The next major change came in minilabs. I've mentioned them in passing already, but they deserve more discussion. As also mentioned, a full professional lab could produce an 8x10 for $10. That involves having several people preparing the film (or disk), moving it between chemical processors (or workstations), darkrooms, and printers, sitting at desks painting the white spots where dust prevented the paper from being exposed, spraying the print with any of several finishes, and eventually packaging the whole thing for shipping. A professional lab could easily fill a 30,000 square foot building. A minilab does the same job in a 60 cubic foot space. It's what you'll see in the back of a Wal-mart or pharmacy photo department now, but back in 2000 their quality was still catching up to the full capabilities of a professional lab. It cost about $0.65 for that same 8x10.

The "photogs" I see now are working in a different sort of industry. Sure, they can press a shutter button and arrange a decent shot, but I often question their ability to anticipate the "Kodak moments" than make photo albums entertaining. Many will take pictures, and provide the digital copies, but don't understand how artistic retouching and finishes can improve an effect. Sure, there's a lot of 'em, but I don't see them as being major players in the professional supply industry. There's enough "real" photographers out there that trends are still obvious.

For comparison, consider the differences between the bona fide audio engineering industry (where digital mixers and cheap-but-unique equipment reigns supreme, and professionals can artistically combine processors to achieve a particular desired sound) and the audiophile-supply industry (where noisy analog processors, vinyl, and high-purity copper digital cables [] are believed to sound "better" by being highly distorted).

Source: I used to work for a lab that was one of the first to integrate a complete digital ordering system (including a minilab, ironically) into their workflow. Said lab was eventually driven out of business in 2007 as minilab quality and prices drastically cut down the number of customers.

Fair Price Ink (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275140)

Kodak did make a move on inkjet printers with fairly priced ink.

When I was looking to replace my printer, I would have bought a Kodak printer. However, I use Ubuntu and Kodak didn't provide Linux drivers at the time. I'm not sure if anything has changed on this front since I last needed a printer.

Can you say Polaroid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275162)

They watched Polaroid whither and die, and then boldly marched down the same path.

And we are surprised?

Kodak should have been the ones to do Photoshop, but they left it for Adobe to do. Not unlike WordPerfect, who should have been the ones to do the word processor for Windows, but they left the field wide open and Microsoft filled the vacuum.

I guess the next thing we should expect is for Kodak management to raid the employee pension fund to try a last ditch effort to save the company on some misguided old school scheme.

Half a league, half a league, half a league onward.
Forward, into the valley of death, rode the six hundred....

Re:Can you say Polaroid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275242)

WordPerfect did make word processors for Windows, they just sucked for the first few versions.

Kodak survived (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275166)

I think Kodak has done incredibly well with their transition.

Demand for their primary product disappeared overnight - yet they are still around.

GM needed government support just to survive a decline.

Their printers are still pretty good though (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275252)

Better than most other home printer brands I've come across and the ink works out a lot cheaper too.

Re:Their printers are still pretty good though (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275356)

If I had to buy a photo printer I'd buy an Epson.

Different View (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275270)

Oddly enough, Kodak did adapt with the time in certain industries. Their presence in the printing industry (which is also dying...) is very large. They provide the de facto standard for soft proofing with their Insite product. Unfortunately, my experience with their responsiveness when it comes to fixing bugs in their software and/or adding requested features has been very negative. For one issue that I am currently experiencing is actually addressed already, but they are waiting till their next software release which is scheduled for late first quarter. So ya, I get frustrated when I'm told, we have a fix for that but you can't have it......

Disruptive Innovation (1)

t0ddsh3rman (933033) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275326)

I'm talking about the specific observations made by Clayton Christensen about how some innovation "helps create a new market ... and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market ... displacing an earlier technology there" [wiki disruptive technology]. It's really classic and it's not about adapting or becoming irrelevant. Companies find it almost impossible to disrupt themselves because usually when the innovation comes along it's not capable of serving an existing company's customers. Over time, with a trajectory of improvement, the innovation meets mainstream needs and displaces the incumbent (vacuum tubes/transistors, mainframes/minicomputers, chemical photography/digital photography and so on). Clayton's book The Innovator's Dilemma is probably the best read on this topic.

wholesale NFL jersey (0)

jersey123456 (2485408) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275416)

The NFL might be the best game of footy NBA jerseys [] made online from the United States. began in 1920 with certified U.S. recognition Footy Association today has grown to be thought about a store of Wholesale NFL jerseys [] soccer players. The footy league in the country consists of 32 clubs that are currently divided in to conferences- American Conference and Conference footy across the country. These conferences NHL jerseys [] are further divided in to divisions MLB jerseys [] with teams each. wholesale nfl jerseys is recognized as an amateur for research use a level of quality and feel. Support their favored tv with this high level of quality 100% sewn (not printed) Jersey.

Re:wholesale NFL jersey (1)

medicthree (125112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275766)

Esxcellent fucking point bro!

Didn't they listen to John Sculley? (1)

strangeattraction (1058568) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275440)

After Sculley left Apple he did some consulting for them. Didn't they listen to him or....... maybe they did:)

agent mulder was to spooky for peopel to stand (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275486)

After Sculley left Apple he did some consulting for them. Didn't they listen to him or....... maybe they did:)

hearing from sculley

Hemel Hempstead (2)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275532)

I lived for many years in the UK town where Kodak had its European headquarters and plant - Hemel Hempstead. It's all gone now. Even the town only "skyscraper" which was Kodak offices has been converted to residential use. Makes me wonder where all those thousands of employees are working now.

Predicting the future is hard. Look at that scene in "The Man Who Fell To Earth" where Newton invents an instant camera. Instant is something anyone could see would be a winner, but no-one at that time saw it happening without using film.

Before Kodak (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275574)

The cautionary tale that was taught in the '70s was the demise of the railroads.

yet they've been at the bleeding edge of Digital (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38275662)

As noted, Kodak has always been at the forefront of Digital photographic technology - this article seems to paint a picture of a company which has taken its foot off the accelerator, as opposed to a much more typical scenario of the company that DEVELOPS the technology almost never being the one which successfully EXPLOITS it.

20 years ago Kodak invented the Photo-CD - ahead of its time in many ways, it basically flopped as the mass market was not really technically prepared to be able to use the format - it ended up gaining at least a fair level of acceptance among professional photographers...

in 1975 the first digital camera was built using then-new CCD image sensor technology at Kodak Eastman by engineer Steven Sasson - a decade later Kodak scientists developed the world's first MegaPixel sensor, capable of producing a photo-quality 5x7" print, in 1986...

the first camera to use Compact-Flash - a format still popular today - was the Kodak DC-25 in 1996...

in 2000 Kodak teamed up with Qualcomm to develop the core technologies for the creation of high-quality digital cinema systems - to give credit where it is due, Sony has largely been the driving force behind digital cinema for the last ten years...

in 2001 Kodak introduced the EasyShare digital camera and (in 2003) printer dock, allowing many households to finally enter the Digital age Kodak had promised a decade earlier with the Photo-CD - solid-state storage technology such as Compact-Flash by now basically replacing the CD as the preferred medium...

it also launched the first Digital Photo Frame around the same time - the "Smart Frame" licensed to Kodak by Weave Innovations, it could download images from Weave's online Story Box network, or you could load images onto it via Compact-Flash...

in 2005 Kodak launched the EasyShare Photo Printer 500, for use with virtually any brand of digital camera and recently introduced camera phones, and in 2006 it entered into partnership with Motorola for purposes of global cross-licensing and marketing around mobile imaging products - in 2007 it had a similar arrangement with Sony-Ericsson and in 2008 introduced the world's first 1.4micron 5 Megapixel sensor - developed specifically for mobile phones...

I think it is a mistake to categorise Kodak as a company which "couldn't foresee a future in which film had no role in image capture" or, as an early adopter of internet and online distribution one that is "dependent on outdated distribution technologies" and while it is true that "consumer demand for Kodak's traditional products has evaporated" it is also equally true that Kodak has expanded its interests far beyond those traditional products - from printing and long-lasting dye technologies, to photo frames and the development and patenting of OLED technology, through to the "Easyshare" philosophy of connecting cameras and phones and printers and even those frames to wirelessly share your digital photos - even to being involved in the Mars Rover project and developing CCD technology for Space - this is a company which may not be pulling in the major profits of days gone by, but it is NOT from a lack of foresight!

Kodak 15 years ago... (2)

dinodriver (577264) | more than 2 years ago | (#38275850)

I worked as a designer for a market research firm in the late 1990s and Kodak (a client) was then trying to come up with ways to remain relevant. They were always testing new concepts and business models. Not products per se, but entire new ways of looking at imaging and how consumers would use cameras and images in the future. I guess they never found a solution.

They had 20 years of warning... (1)

Gavin Scott (15916) | more than 2 years ago | (#38276048)

Kodak introduced it's first high-end (ok, that was the only end there was) digital camera in 1991, more than 20 years ago, so I think it's fair to say they should have seen this coming.

If you can't get the ship turned around given 20 years of pretty clear notice then I don't really feel the need to get all sniffly and sad over their passage.


Re:They had 20 years of warning... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38276210)

Nikon and Canon have always been the professional's choice. To a lesser extent, Olympus, Pentax, Minolta.

Kodak and Fuji have been primarily film companies. Yes, Kodak was big in cameras for a number of years, but from the 70s to the 90s, the choice was Nikon, Canon and Olympus.

Pro photographers STILL believe in film, and still think it is better for the most part. One of the major issues with digital is a true archival system for the media. Film from 100 years ago can still be processed and printed from the negatives or positives. Do you think your jpegs are going to be easily read in 100 years? Maybe, maybe not. What about that SD card it's on?

One of the reasons why professional photographers have moved to digital, mostly, is the speed to get things done. You can view the images instantly, crucial for weddings, sports, news, etc, and it doesn't have to wait 1 hour, 4 hours, 24 hours or 7 days to process like film in the past. You can send the images from Africa back to National Geographic headquarters in minutes vs days or weeks. Customers want to view them on their computer, on their phone, put them on Facebook, Flickr, etc. Companies go to were the money is at, and consumers want simple, easy, quick, and have buying power far greater than any group of professionals.

Medical field (2)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#38276080)

For many years Kodak also produced a lot of the film used in x-rays. When a small hospital is producing over 100 chest x-rays a day (on a piece of film that is 35 by 43), that's a LOT of film. The chest x-ray is probably *the* most common film taken (simply because you can tell a lot about the state of a patient's heart and lungs very quickly, at very little cost in terms of money or radiation). It's a big sheet of film - funnily enough about the size of your chest. They made a lot of money with it.

Then digital technology arrived, and Kodak did adapt - producing both CR and DR [] equipment, printers, and PACS archives [] . They even won a very large contract with the NHS in Britain to supply many of the hospitals with their radiography equipment.

Quite what happened then I don't know but they got out of medical imaging, but they did at least attempt to adapt to the new scene. Perhaps their financial models revolved too much around the silver they were putting on the old films.

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