Hey Judge, Don’t Take My Kodachrome Away

By  |  Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 3:03 am

It seems almost unthinkable, but it very well could happen: the Wall Street Journal reports Wednesday that Kodak is teetering dangerously close to the edge of financial ruin, with bankruptcy a real possibility if it cannot sell of a chunk of its patent portfolio in short order. Above and beyond that, it appears the company needs about $1 billion to stay afloat according to reports.

The thought of a world without Kodak is almost incomprehensible to me, but the company dug its own grave. While we think of the Kodachrome (sorry for the Paul Simon reference in this post’s title) and the camera, Kodak’s real bread and butter was film. The company’s product was not only used in its own cameras but in its competitors, too.

Kodak became synonymous with quality and its market share showed it. But as the digital camera came along — an era it helped to usher in itself back in 1975 — the need for film decreased.

This killed the company’s nearly eight decade long core business and accelerated the company’s decline. Since June 2007 the company’s stock has lost 98.5 percent of its value. So what does this storied company do? It’s not clear. Kodak’s printer business has not shown much promise, and its foray into digital cameras hasn’t saved it either.

Yes, Kodak probably has attractive patents. But the sale of these patents do not address the changes in the marketplace that Kodak likely will not be able to adjust to in short order. It is a short term fix to a long term problem. Either way, Kodak’s not the only company to fail to change with the times. Fellow film company Polaroid has been through bankruptcy twice now: Borders was forced to liquidate itself as consumers turned to online competitors like Amazon.

It may just be a fact of the digital age that storied brands like Kodak may be destined for the deadpool, or into the arms of more modern technology conglomerates. That said, it’s not any less sad to see it happen.

 
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10 Comments For This Post

  1. TheGraphicMac Says:

    You have to wonder how many of their patents are even useful at this stage. They haven't really done much in the digital age, so I wonder what modern patents they have. Thanks for the memories, Kodak.

  2. Alex99a Says:

    You do know that Kodachrome is already gone, right?

  3. the Goat Says:

    I may be too young, but I've never seen Kodak innovate. Sure they sold a high quality product. But at the end of the day they manufactured a commodity. that commodity was sold unchanged for decades. No innovation == dead company walking.

  4. The_Heraclitus Says:

    Like the music industry execs. Didn't see the freight train until it ran them over. OR, refused to see it.
    Happens all the time. DEC, Wang, Sun, et al…

  5. Yirmin Says:

    actually they have made some nice innovations in the digital side… but they just don't have the ability to capitalize on them… If they had been smart they would have jumped into the digital camera arena hard core and bought a camera company like Minolta so they could have actually made their own high end cameras… instead they had a horrible habit of just buying Nikons and Canons and then putting their digital chips on them and reselling them as Kodaks… not a great idea long term.

  6. Paul Says:

    Yes, it was a humerus reference to the Paul Simon song as Ed pointed out in the article.

  7. Jamie Says:

    In a related sign of the times, three months ago it transpired that ARRI, Aaton and Panavision are no longer manufacturing film cameras, and haven't been mass-producing them for some time. ARRI hasn't built a new 35mm body in over a year, and that last one was a one-off to replace a rental unit.

  8. Saint Bump Says:

    So what happens when we loose this lovely thing called technology? Is our future going to be a new dark age? People have become so dependent on the new, but no one has realized that for all our advances, what we have is a disposable society. Almost all electronic media degrades over time, and without power how is our future supposed to access all this wonderful information? We were handed down our histories and traditions through the written word (image) and word of mouth. Once we stop using paper (which actually doesn't last all that long, hence why HEMP paper is better) our future is doomed.

  9. Michael Says:

    Which is eactly why I keep all of recorded history painted on the inside of a cave, paper can't be trusted.

  10. Robin Debra Says:

    Hi,

    You might want to look at a mini-documentary by Xander Robin which was featured at http://www.petapixel.com/2012/01/13/mini-document

    It basically reflects on why the film was going to end. The film maker traveled to Parsons, Kansas for the doc. It is also at http://vimeo.com/22543258

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