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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Kodak was never going to be the Kodak of digital photography | Challengers - CNET News


First, an important point: The fact that Eastman Kodak has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy is no reason to begin talking about this iconic American company in the past tense.

Kodak isn't going out of business. In fact, the whole point of chapter 11 is to help an ailing business avoid death and move forward. I'm still hoping that Kodak will find a way to be viable--even successful--for years to come.

Kodak EasyShare Sport

A current Kodak camera, the EasyShare sport.

(Credit: Kodak)

But will it restore the unique place it held in America's collective consciousness? No, of course not. In 1976, it had 90 percent of the film market and 85 percent of the camera market, according to a Harvard Business School case study cited by Wikipedia. Few companies have every dominated an aspect of everyday life as utterly as Kodak dominated photography--and it did it for decades.

When a venerable, successful company flounders as times change, it's tempting to look back for moments in time when one decision, made differently, would have led to a better outcome. It's obvious that the great shift from film photography to digital photography changed everything for Kodak. Given that the company invented the digital camera, one might leap to the conclusion that it foolishly failed to understand what it had wrought, thereby blowing the chance to be the Kodak of digital photography.

Except it's not that simple. Kodak did comprehend that digital photography was going to be huge. It jumped on the digital-camera bandwagon early. It was one of the top-selling brands in the late 1990s and early this century, when consumers first started to replace their 35mm point-and-shoots with digital models. In a market dominated by Canon, Nikon, Sony and other Japanese brands, it was the only U.S. camera company that managed any real success at all. (HP made digital cameras for a time, but exited the business in 2007.)

Kodak was never going to be the Kodak of digital photography | Challengers - CNET News

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