Kodak’s travails: Better heed the lesson, camera makers

Kodak's travails: Better heed the lesson, camera makers:

It’s sad but unsurprising that Kodak appears headed for bankruptcy protection. And that should be a cautionary tale for camera industry powers that might think themselves better off.

Kodak, a technology titan from an earlier industrial age, has been struggling financially for years as digital photography killed Kodak’s former cash cow, film. Bankruptcy protection, as reported yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, could open the door to some otherwise difficult options such as evading its pension obligations.

But fundamentally, it’s hard to see Kodak surviving except as a shadow of its former self. Some technology bright spots—digital cameras that emphasize social sharing, inkjet printers with cheaper ink, drugstore kiosks for quick photo printing—aren’t enough to sustain what was once a globally recognized brand.

The company has been eating the seed corn, too. It sold its high-end Leaf camera and software business to Phase One, sold its image-sensor design and manufacturing business to Platinum Equity in November, and is trying to raise cash by selling its digital imaging patent portfolio.

A third-quarter loss of $222 million showed the seriousness of the company’s problems. Because its stock has dropped below $1 for 30 days, the EK ticker symbol could be ignominiously booted from the New York Stock Exchange.

It’s surely easy for those at better-situated companies to feel a combination of pity and scorn for Kodak. But I’d suggest they should also feel some worry.

That’s because the microprocessor is nowhere near done remaking the photography industry. There’s plenty more room for creative destruction, the incessant overhaul of businesses that’s often unpleasant for those trampled by change.

Several big changes that threaten even powerful incumbents: Click on the heading to read the entire article

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