Kodak’s been struggling to regain its place in the world of photography ever since it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012. At the time they said that “Since 2008, despite Kodak’s best efforts, restructuring costs and recessionary forces have continued to negatively impact the company’s liquidity position”. Basically, they’re not making enough money.
But why? Well, according to Cheddar’s take, it’s all down to the fact that they ignored the future of photography and the march towards digital. He suggests that Kodak intentionally shunned digital because it would be competing with and eating into the sales of its other primary product – film.
We almost saw this with digital cameras again, today, with Nikon and Canon holding off on producing mirrorless cameras for as long as they did while Sony charged ahead. Fear of cannibalising DSLR sales? Perhaps. Although, both Nikon and Canon have now said that they’ll be pursuing mirrorless alongside DSLRs.
I always found it interesting that despite inventing the digital camera, Kodak had an 85% market share of cameras in 1976 (one year after inventing the first digital camera), but as a result of not pursuing digital technology, they let the competition charged ahead. Kodak never quite recovered from that. And while the digital resistance wasn’t the only contributing factor to Kodak’s demise, it was the one that seems to have started it all.
Kodak spent a lot of money on R&D, a lot of which is still around in digital cameras today. The Bayer sensor array, for example, was invented by Bryce Bayer while at Kodak. But Kodak failed to collect on a lot of that intellectual property when it was used by others.
I suppose, in a way, it’s probably a good thing that Kodak, even if out of stubbornness, held back on digital. If they hadn’t, we probably wouldn’t have the diversity of camera choices and other equipment that we have today. Kodak’s hesitation allowed other camera manufacturers to innovate and finally compete in the photographic space against the biggest name out there.
Kodak is still around, and they’re still releasing products today, although they are generally Kodak in name only, with many of the products being produced by licensees. But with reintroductions of popular past products, like Ektachrome, perhaps Kodak can rebuild.
I don’t think the Kodak name will ever again achieve the status it once held, though.
For another take on Kodak’s decline, which talks more about how they got where they got, have a watch of this one.