View Full Version : Kodak

March 20th, 2015, 12:40 PM

Sad, little man
March 20th, 2015, 02:01 PM
It always blows my mind to think how Kodak was actually one of the initial pioneers of digital photography. How do you screw up so badly that you're initially at the forefront of a new technology, and then once it takes off, somehow it leaves you in the dust. :erm:

March 21st, 2015, 08:48 PM
The short answer is that Kodak did what lots of other once-dominant companies - Baldwin Locomotive, British Leyland, the Dutch East India company - did: cling overly long to what worked and stayed away from serious innovation that might be disruptive or cause the whole business model to be reworked.

My partner is from Rochester, and I've been there many times. In December, we drove by Kodak HQ on our way to a restaurant. It looks - no joke - like a dilapidated nursing home. There are three groups of people in Rochester - people over 40 who remember the glory days of Kodak when Kodak was to Rochester what Apple is to Cupertino, people under 40 who have only lived in a Rochester without that kind of industrial dominance. And recent immigrants, who have no idea about any of this. Big Vietnamese and Ukranian communities, most of whom are about starting their own businesses. Many - most - young people from Rochester leave for New York, Philly, DC, California, and other places because the prospects for good jobs are dim. It's depressing, because aside from a winter that could rival Harbin or Moscow and a high crime rate in some - certainly not all - areas, Rochester is a wonderful city.

Kodak was an innovator in digital - but the idea of creating digital cameras threatened the entire structure of their existing business - that they made disposable cameras (no longer needed if you had a cheap digital), that the lion's share of their business was in making film (potentially made obsolete by digital), the chemicals to develop it (no longer needed with digital), and that the film business revolved around consumers constantly buying film (you only buy a digital once) or chemicals. They were also not big equipment makers. Even in the late film era, it'd been a good long time since Kodak made professional or even semi-pro cameras. They were focused on the mass market, and after about 1970, couldn't have competed with Canon and Nikon on price even if they'd tried. So their business was entirely dependent on the mass market for film and cheap tourist cameras. Insiders really saw digital as a threat to that, and so they didn't really pursue it. Because if you have 67 vice presidents who's jobs and divisions are threatened by a new product, you've got 67 political enemies gunning for that product.

Think of the GM VP's in the 1980s who had never driven anything but GM cars, and refused to even think that the NUMMI factory approach might be a better way than the old GM way. That's what happens in ossified, old companies. Eventually that will happen with today's "disruptive innovators."

March 21st, 2015, 10:20 PM
Yeah. They totally didn't see the value of what they had in their digital photography and they didn't see it mostly destroying film like it did.

Film is still alive, but it's a niche thing now and will likely remain so, kind of like vinyl records.

Another problem for them is that their factories mostly couldn't work on the relatively low volumes of film that are now warranted. They had to design new factories for the lower volume of film. They used to employ tens of thousands of people to make film. Now it's down to 300.

As the video shows, they do still have some innovation going on and they are still clinging to life, but they will likely never again be the dominant force that they once were.

March 22nd, 2015, 12:53 AM
Yup. Some of their earlier DCs were actually pretty decent, but I can see that the other heads of Department were fighting for "their" slice of the pie.

Fuji, OTOH...