"LENIN is said to have sneered that a capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him. The quote may be spurious, but it contains a grain of truth. Capitalists quite often invent the technology that destroys their own business.
Eastman Kodak is a picture-perfect example. It built one of the first digital cameras in 1975. That technology, followed by the development of smartphones that double as cameras, has battered Kodak's old film- and camera-making business almost to death. ...
While Kodak suffers, its long-time rival Fujifilm is doing rather well. The two firms have much in common. Both enjoyed lucrative near-monopolies of their home markets: Kodak selling film in America, Fujifilm in Japan. A good deal of the trade friction during the 1990s between America and Japan sprang from Kodak's desire to keep cheap Japanese film off its patch.
Both firms saw their traditional business rendered obsolete. But whereas Kodak has so far failed to adapt adequately, Fujifilm has transformed itself into a solidly profitable business, with a market capitalisation, even after a rough year, of some $12.6 billion to Kodak's $220m. Why did these two firms fare so differently?
Both saw change coming. Larry Matteson, a former Kodak executive who now teaches at the University of Rochester's Simon School of Business, recalls writing a report in 1979 detailing, fairly accurately, how different parts of the market would switch from film to digital, starting with government reconnaissance, then professional photography and finally the mass market, all by 2010. He was only a few years out.
Fujifilm, too, saw omens of digital doom as early as the 1980s. It developed a three-pronged strategy: to squeeze as much money out of the film business as possible, to prepare for the switch to digital and to develop new business lines.
Both firms realised that digital photography itself would not be very profitable. 'Wise businesspeople concluded that it was best not to hurry to switch from making 70 cents on the dollar on film to maybe five cents at most in digital,' says Mr Matteson. But both firms had to adapt; Kodak was slower."
(The Economist, 14 January 2012)
Fig.1 John Terret (03 Nov 2011). "Kodak misses the moment", Al Jazeera.
Fig.2 Kodak (1922). "Kodachrome Film Test".
"In December of 1975, after a year of piecing together a bunch of new technology in a back lab at the Elmgrove Plant in Rochester, we were ready to try it. 'It' being a rather odd-looking collection of digital circuits that we desperately tried to convince ourselves was a portable camera. It had a lens that we took from a used parts bin from the Super 8 movie camera production line downstairs from our little lab on the second floor in Bldg 4. On the side of our portable contraption, we shoehorned in a portable digital cassette instrumentation recorder. Add to that 16 nickel cadmium batteries, a highly temperamental new type of CCD imaging area array, an a/d converter implementation stolen from a digital voltmeter application, several dozen digital and analog circuits all wired together on approximately half a dozen circuit boards, and you have our interpretation of what a portable all electronic still camera might look like.
It was a camera that didn't use any film to capture still images - a camera that would capture images using a CCD imager and digitize the captured scene and store the digital info on a standard cassette. It took 23 seconds to record the digitized image to the cassette. The image was viewed by removing the cassette from the camera and placing it in a custom playback device. This playback device incorporated a cassette reader and a specially built frame store. This custom frame store received the data from the tape, interpolated the 100 captured lines to 400 lines, and generated a standard NTSC video signal, which was then sent to a television set.
There you have it. No film required to capture and no printing required to view your snapshots. That's what we demonstrated to many internal Kodak audiences throughout 1976. In what has got to be one of the most insensitive choices of demonstration titles ever, we called it 'Film-less Photography'. Talk about warming up your audience!"
(Steve Sasson, 16 October 2007)
Fig.1 Vintage 1975 portable all electronic still camera
Fig.2 The playback device and TV
Fig.3 Side-by-side comparison – Hardcopy vs. Film-less Photography
"For those companies willing to make the cultural commitment to the instantaneous praise and bashing served up 140 characters at a time on Twitter, the rewards can be considerable.
Jeffrey Hayzlett, Kodak's chief marketing officer, said that he learned firsthand after the company originally debuted its Zi8 waterproof, pocket-sized HD video camera earlier this year. ...
Most companies would either ignore the panning or, perhaps, send the product back to the sales and marketing gurus to come up with a better name.
Kodak didn't. Instead, this summer it took the naming process to the people via Twitter, asking the great unwashed masses on the microblogging site to see if they could come up with something better. The winner, or winners as it turns out, were promised a free trip to Vegas for this year's CES and will have their likeness displayed in some way on the product's packaging.
From the thousands of tweets received from the crowdsourcing experiment, Kodak combined two fairly mundane suggestions -- 'Play' and 'Sport' -- to derive the new moniker 'PlaySport.' It's not rocket science but, according to Hayzlett, it's a damn sight better than Zi8."
(Larry Barrett, 7 January 2010)
"Even an imploring Paul Simon chorus couldn't save it. Kodak is taking Kodachrome away. The company has announced that it will retire the world's first commercially successful color film, which today accounts for 'a fraction of one percent of Kodak's total sales of still-picture films,' according to a press release. While Kodak remains the global leader in the dwindling film business, the company now derives about 70% of its revenues from commercial and consumer digital businesses.
You-or your parents, or their storage unit-probably have albums full of Kodachrome memories, but Kodak has arranged its own online slide show of 'great Kodachrome moments' (best viewed with the aforementioned anthem playing, preferably on a record player)."
(mediabistro.com, 30 June 2009)
[Despite being responsible for capturing such historical moments as John F. Kennedy's assassination Kodachrome film has now been officially usurped (by digital photography).]