How did kodak end up where it is?
I’ve been shooting Kodak colour and transparency film since I got into film photography a few years back, and they’ve never let me down, so when I had the opportunity to do a research project for school I decided to study the recent history of Kodak and how they ended up in their current state. It’s fairly obvious that they’re where they are now because they failed to capitalise on digital, but why this happened is harder to understand. I know that this site is for analogue photography, but any suggestions and answers for my questions below would be much appreciated, thanks.
Kodak invented the digital camera. Though it is understandable that they were afraid of developing it at the time due to the threat it would pose to their film business, what was the thinking at the company that caused them to remain film centric after both their competitors and previously non photographic companies had begun to gain ground in the digital market?
Why did they not streamline their film business in order meet the new, smaller demand for film? Also, why have they cut back on transparency film and kept lower end consumer film, which is surely a faster shrinking market?
At what point did companies other than Kodak begin to look into digital, and at what point did Kodak begin to worry about these developments?
For the majority of the 1990s, Kodak was not far behind Fuji or their other competitors where it came to digital technology and their early DSLRs produced higher quality images than other early digital cameras. I’ve read a report saying that prior to a leadership change in 2000 many in Fuji were also against the move away from film, so at what point did Fuji really gain the upper hand over Kodak when it came to digital?
Why did Kodak move away from the professional end of digital photography and concentrate on the lower profit consumer end when they had less experience in the latter?
At what point did the management of Kodak realise that film was going to be overtaken by digital, and at what point did it become too late for the company to make a smooth change?
If digital had not arrived, where would Kodak be today? Would they have stagnated anyway in terms of creativity (APS didn’t exactly take of as the company had hoped) and been overtaken by more modern and creative companies regardless of the invention of digital?
Overall, the main question I’m trying to answer is why did Kodak miss out on digital? Were they simply scared to develop it as they felt it would undercut film, or could they genuinely not see a way that the clunky, 0.01 megapixel digital camera that they invented in 1976 could be developed into a consumer product?
Once again, I know this isn't strictly analogue stuff, but all help is appreciated
In the near future (if not already), I'm sure there will be one or more textbooks giving one or more explanations. I'm waiting to hear the answer from some world-renowned economicist... or wahtever the inverse of "futureist" is.
I might be wrong, but here is my 2 cents, the age of the communication is what doomed Kodak and many others, marketing and information delivery had changed dramatically, hype is King. If you look closely on the ads today, they do not even begin to discuss technical aspects of the product, and that is how companies that manufacture quality products loose, new generation is googling in order to get info, despite the obvious fact that unbiased opinion is increasingly hard to find even in the newspapers.
Multum egerunt, qui ante nos fuerunt, sed non peregedunt.
There are literally hundreds of posts here on this topic or ranging around it. You should look up some of them. You should also listen to some of our interviews on "Inside Analog Photography".
How about an explanation that might not have been offered yet?
Kodak ended up where it is by not aggressively developing all aspects of digital imaging, patenting every iota of it, then keeping the technology off the market and preventing everyone else from bringing it to market via patent enforcement.
With no digital alternatives available to the world, Kodak would still be coating as much high-margin sensitized product as ever and rolling in cash. Instead of engaging in the losing battle of consumer electronics competition, it would still be selling extremely profitable "razor blades" by the trainload.
Other than that approach, I don't see how Kodak could have dodged the digital juggernaut.
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In fact, my experience is that Kodak can't or won't discuss technical aspects of their products even when asked. AllI can get is a "form letter" response from someone who seems to just be learning English (and can't even get my name right) telling me to use a chat facility that doesn't work or call a phone number. I've had such a bad time trying to get an answer that I gave up and moved on to anther product... which also does not have techncial information associated with it.
Originally Posted by vedmak
This is a bit simplistic, but I think if Kodak had just manufactured a decent, sturdy 35mm SLR--something to compete favorably with the Pentax K-1000, etc. back in the day--it would have gone a long way to improve the company's image long term among the public. By the 70s few advanced amateur photographers (or even freshmen photography students) were shooting Kodak cameras. They were mostly viewed as inexpensive, beginner cameras, with little or no exposure control, and I think this reputation somewhat tainted the Kodak brand as digital cameras became popular.
No simple answer
Many of use in Kodak in the '80s and early '90s understood the transition that was coming. Several of Kodak's early digital products (RFS-2035, Premiere Image Enhancement System, Prism, and Photo CD for example) were hybrid products, meant to ease the transition into digital.
Film was (and still is) a very mature product that has a manufacturing process that has been perfected over many years and had (has) a high profit margin. The profit margins on equipment were never good and digital cameras and equipment looked to have low profit margins as well.
Kodak lacked the managers with imaging industry vision to figure out how to make the transition work (APS was a dreadful failure) and figure out what the new Kodak was going to look like. Note, this required a willingness to give up some short term profit to gain future profit and the managers pay incentive plans made that unlikely.
Kodak's distribution system was a huge asset in their heyday. In recent years, it has/had become an effective tool for preventing sales.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
Originally Posted by MattKing
That's because the people in Distribution no longer understand the imaging business.