By Devin Coldewey
), let us admit, is doomed. Founded over a century ago, it has
dominated film for as long as film has existed, but now that film
is on the verge of ceasing to exist, they have very little to
dominate. They're short on cash and while they deny plans to file
for bankruptcy, many question whether they will have the luxury of
choice a few years from now.
My first preference for the preservation of this company would
be for them to sell off their patents and focus on film until
they're buried by progress. That'd be Kodak going out with its
boots on, so to speak. But I doubt that's going to happen.
What needs to happen instead is Kodak needs to abandon any
pretense of being a household word. They've had a good run - for an
entire century their name has been synonymous with film. But it
will never be as recognizable again. So why throw money away on an
entire division creating low-margin, unoriginal devices that are
going to be obsolete in a few months and duplicated by pirate OEMs
anyway? No, Kodak needs to go invisible.
For a long time Kodak was the leader in photographic innovation.
They even invented their own destroyer, a la Oedipus Rex: they were
among the first producing digital cameras. Why aren't they now? Why
is the sensor inside the iPhone 4S a Sony instead of a Kodak?
Listen, Kodak. I like a couple of your cameras. That's not the
issue. The issue is that you're selling a product that everyone
gets for free when they buy a smartphone, digital picture frames
are a joke, and printing is becoming more and more something that
happens in a ShutterFly (
) facility, not at home - if it happens at all. Producing products
is for companies like Apple (
) and Canon. You don't want to compete with them.
And you don't have to. You've got top-notch research facilities
churning out patents and inventions all over the place. Pick a few
niches and become indispensible. I'm not quite saying be a patent
troll. I'm saying you should be the ones HTC goes to when they want
to get an edge over the rest in the camera department. What will
you make? Low-noise sensors? Image compression algorithms? Lens
coatings? High-speed imaging interface? I don't know. Just pick
a heap of consumer products in the process of being eliminated by
the march of progress. You don't see [[IBM]] trying to compete with
One thing: in order to keep the Kodak brand alive, you should
always be in the business of making real things. But make the
printer head, not the printer. Make the sensor, not the camera.
Make it clear that if it's not powered by Kodak, it's a piece of
junk. You've already been half-forced to this position, so just go
all the way. You don't need the trappings of a consumer tech
company weighing you down. You're
, for god's sake. Act like it.
If all goes well, you'll emerge from these hard times a leaner,
more focused company, with a sack full of amazing patents and a
stable of clients who wouldn't be able to compete without your
technology. Is it a fantasy? Sure. But it's better than the dreary,
prosaic reality you're living in now. At least strike out
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