Kodak to market memories


Our ol’ pal Gary Pageau spoke with executives from Kodak at PMA@CES last month, and reported on those talks over at Kiosk Marketplace.

Kodak says its been meeting with potential buyers for its photography business, “and there’s been a handful who have come forward that are very interested in the business.” An auction is set for March.

By June of 2013, the personalized imaging component of Kodak would be separate from Kodak, as an ongoing organization with new owners. That business includes 106,000 kiosk units installed.

Kodak went into bankruptcy last year and is selling off its personal imaging business; it’s sold its digital imaging patent portfolio for $527 million, and recently won approval for a financing deal worth $843.7 million.

Read more on Kodak’s plans for future print products here.




Kodak licenses its brand to new camera maker


The next time you buy a Kodak camera, it might be in name only: the Rochester company, now in bankruptcy/reorganization, has licensed its logo to an unknown manufacturer that will brand a slate of new models later this year.

While Kodak says “the JK Imaging team has global experience and expertise in the industry,” the new company is not exactly a household name in the photography business — which of course is why it might benefit from using the iconic yellow and red logo. “Kodak remains a strong and trustworthy brand in the consumer space and this agreement reinforces how valuable our brand is,” the company says.

JK Imaging agrees “there is great significance and value in the Kodak name.”

Kodak announced its plan to exit the digital camera business last year — and started off this one with a multi-year agreement that lets JK Imaging license the Kodak brand name for certain consumer products, including digital cameras, pocket video cameras, and portable projectors.

JK Imaging, Ltd. reports its is a privately held company headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. It is run by the chairman of JA Capital Holdings, which says it is “a global supplier specializing in consumer imaging and electronics products.”

JK Imaging plans to launch its first products in the second quarter of 2013.

At a news conference in China, JK reportedly announced plans to market a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera with the Kodak brand.

Photo Counter Australia investigates more on the deal here.




Kodak extends retail relationship with CVS

Relax, you’ll continue to be able to pick up prints and prescriptions at one location: Kodak announced it’s extended its relationship with CVS/pharmacy through 2016, adding that the four-year “extension of our relationship is great news for both companies, and for consumers who enjoy our services.”

CVS operates 7,400 stores across the U.S. and is the largest customer of Kodak’s Retail Systems Solutions business, Kodak says, with more than 15,000 Kodak kiosks in its stores.

As part of the agreement, CVS will upgrade and expanding its APEX dry lab systems, which Kodak says “provide a more economical way for retailers to produce photo products, improve profitability, reduce their environmental footprint, and expand their customer offerings.”



Apple, Google to acquire Kodak imaging patents


Apple and Google teamed to offer more than $500 million to buy Kodak’s  imaging patents, Bloomberg reported late last week.

With their two leading smartphone operating systems, iOS and Android, the two companies have dominant positions in mobile imaging, and doubtless would rather not face patent infringement claims from any potential rival buying Kodak’s intellectual property.

It’s not an uncommon move: Apple worked with Microsoft and Research in Motion to acquire 6,000 patents for $4.5 billion from bankrupt Nortel Networks last year.

Kodak, in the midst of bankruptcy and reorganization, seeks to sell 1,100 imaging patents.

Kodak has claimed the patents may be worth more than $2 billion, but others counter the patents are already too widely licensed to be of much further value.

More on the story is here.



Kodak to cut 1,000 more jobs; CFO, President resign

Kodak announced plans to cut an additional 1,000 jobs by the end of the year, and the resignation of two top executives.

The WS Journal reports that many creditors “called for management changes, specifically for chief executive Antonio Perez and chief financial officer Antoinette P. McCorvey to resign.”

McCorvey is now leaving the company, as is president and former chief operating officer Philip J. Faraci.

“We recognize that we must significantly and expeditiously reduce our current cost structure, which is designed for a much larger, more diversified set of businesses,” the company says. “We are reorganizing our senior management team, an action that will help accelerate the creation of a sustainable cost structure for operating our business for the benefit of our customers and position our Personalized Imaging and Document Imaging businesses for successful sales.”

Kodak president Laura G. Quatela will assume the additional role of president of Personalized Imaging. She is expected to remain with Kodak until the sale of that business is completed in the first half of 2013.

The company has reduced its workforce by approximately 2,700 employees worldwide since the beginning of 2012. Kodak expects to reduce its workforce by approximately an additional 1,000 employees by the end of 2012.

Kodak ending consumer inkjet printer sales

Starting in 2013, Kodak will “wind down sales of consumer inkjet printers.”

Kodak says it “remains committed to its significant installed base of consumer inkjet printer customers, who recognize the value proposition of affordable ink, high-quality output because of Kodak’s unique pigment-based inks, and advanced features including cloud printing. The company will provide its customers and retail partners the same level of service and support they have come to expect from Kodak.”

Earlier this year, Kodak already discontinued its cameras and picture displays, and is looking to sell off its consumer  film business.

Kodak also asked the Bankruptcy Court to extend until February 28, 2013 its exclusive right to file a plan of reorganization. Kodak filed for Chapter 11 on January 19, 2012.

Kodak says its case “is large and complex, involving some $5 billion in assets, global operations, thousands of contracts and leases, thousands of potential creditors, and ongoing asset sales.”



Kodak’s “Next Steps” — selling off two Imaging divisions, still camera film

No more film: Citing its competitive advantages in materials science and deposition technologies, Kodak outlined its next “steps toward a successful emergence from Chapter 11 reorganization as a company primarily focused on commercial, packaging and functional printing solutions and enterprise services.”

As part of that plan, the company “has initiated sale processes for its market-leading Personalized Imaging and Document Imaging businesses.” This includes the 105,000 Picture Kiosks Kodak has installed in retail outlets.

While the sale will include the famed consumer  film for still cameras and related products, Kodak will continue its Consumer Inkjet, Entertainment Imaging, Commercial Film, and Specialty Chemicals businesses.

Kodak says selling the assets, long with the monetization of its digital imaging patent portfolio, “will be significant milestones toward completing the company’s reorganization and emergence from Chapter 11 during 2013.”

In commercial, packaging and functional printing, Kodak says it has “the broadest portfolio solutions.” Coupled with enterprise services, these businesses “have substantial long-term growth prospects worldwide and are core to the future of Kodak.”

The Personalized Imaging business consists of Retail Systems Solutions (RSS), Paper & Output Systems (P&OS) and Event Imaging Solutions (EIS). RSS is the worldwide leader in retail print solutions with a global footprint of 105,000 Picture Kiosks. P&OS includes the broadest portfolio of traditional photographic paper and still camera film products; and EIS provides souvenir photo products at theme parks and other venues. The Document Imaging business provides a leading and comprehensive portfolio of scanners, capture software and services to enterprise customers.
More information is here.

Earlier in August:
Kodak posts large second-quarter loss

Kodak says it “continued to make progress in focusing on its most profitable businesses and strengthening operating performance and cost controls, as it develops a plan of reorganization that will enable it to emerge in 2013 as a profitable, sustainable company.”

However, that comes amidst a second-quarter loss that increased 67 percent to $299 million, from $179 million a year earlier.

Revenue fell 27 percent to $1.08 billion, a decline of 27 percent from the year-ago quarter, “reflecting the exit of digital cameras, reduced sales of traditional products, participation choices across its businesses, and the negative impact of currency exchange,” Kodak says.

As Reuters reports, the news comes as the company prepares to auction more than 1,100 imaging patents on August 8; Kodak said a winning bidder should be named by August 13. Kodak claims it’s earned more than $3 billion in revenue since 2001 from licensing the patents.



Rivals Apple, Google, Samsung, may ally to acquire Kodak patents

The Wall Street Journal reports Apple, Samsung and Google may form a consortium to bid on Kodak’s portfolio of more than 1,000 digital imaging patents.

The bid is lower than the > $2 billion Kodak desires — and so new reports arise that the company may not sell the coveted assets after all, the WSJ adds.

Kodak announced is has not “reached a determination or agreement to sell the digital imaging patent portfolio, and may retain all or parts of it as a source of creditor recoveries in lieu of a sale if it concludes that doing so is in the best interests of the estate.”

Others in the consortium may include HTC and LG Electronics, as well as patent firms Intellectual Ventures Management LLC, and RPX Corp.

The sale was initially to have been completed by this date.



Kodak’s loss of focus chronicled, on the Imaging Executive podcast

How could a household name of more than 120 years quickly slip into oblivion? Photo industry expert John Larish followed Kodak for more than three decades, and in his latest book he provides an inside and highly documented look at how Kodak stumbled its way through a half dozen chief executive officers into the depths of darkness.

This week on the Imaging Executive podcast, Larish introduces his book, “Out of Focus: The story of how Kodak lost its direction.” He describes how a large corporation can be so blinded by its own views of the world around it.

The book is more than just an indictment or a litany of Kodak’s failures: Larish, a former Kodak employee himself before becoming an independent writer and consultant, tells us that readers in a wide variety of businesses have already told him they’ve learned valuable lessons from reading of the film giant’s mistakes.  The book is available here.



RIM reports ITC decides against Kodak ’218 Patent

Blackberry mobile phone maker Research In Motion reports the U.S. International Trade Commission “terminated its investigation” after determining Kodak’s claim the company infringed on its U.S. Patent No. 6,292,218 for electronic cameras is invalid.

On January 14, 2010, Kodak filed a complaint with the ITC alleging that RIM’s camera-enabled products infringe Kodak’s ’218 patent, RIM says. On May 21, 2012 the court reaffirmed an earlier finding that Kodak’s ’218 patent is invalid. Kodak requested that the full Commission review and modify that finding, but instead the ITC “made final the decision that the Kodak ’218 patent is invalid.”


Same-day greeting cards from Kodak, Target, and Greeting Card Universe

Consumers can now “create that high quality card with the perfect message and the perfect image,” Kodak says. “Even better, they can create the card online and pick it up on the same day in most Target stores nationwide,” thanks to a new partnership with California-based Greeting Card Universe.

“As a leader in the online paper greeting card category, we understand the need for customized content as well as quick, automated fulfillment processes on orders when convenient same day pickup is required,” the company says. “Partnering with Kodak provides Greeting Card Universe the ability to offer consumers instant gratification through Kodak’s in-store printing solutions rather than just the mail-to-home or mail direct to recipient options.”

At the www.greetingcarduniverse.com site, customers search for the occasion, choose from more than 500,000 card designs, customize with their personal message and/or photo, and place their order. They can pick it up at their local Target store in as little as an hour.

Customers can even request a new card design from Greeting Card Universes’ community of more than 4,000 artists.

Kodak reports an installed base of 105,000 Picture Kiosks.

The companies cite research firm InfoTrends’ report that more than 21 percent of printed photo merchandise products (photo books, greeting cards, calendars, and specialty prints) ordered online in 2011 were fulfilled in a retail store — and that percentage is expected to approach 28 percent by 2015.



Kodak selling imaging patents

Kodak filed to enable its bankrupt company to sell off its imaging patents.

The motion seeks “approval of bidding procedures for the prompt bankruptcy auction of its Digital Capture and Kodak Imaging Systems and Services Patent Portfolios, comprising more than 1,100 patents that are integral to the capture, manipulation, and sharing of digital images,” the company says.

Kodak says its motion outlines a sale process that is open to all qualified bidders subject to the rules of the bidding procedures. No disclosure of the unsuccessful bidders will be made to other bidders or the public. Only the winning bidder and the amount of the successful bid will be announced publicly at the end of the auction. “The bidding procedures are designed to allow bidders to give us their best offers without fear of showing their cards to competitors. In filing these proposed procedures in advance of the June 30 deadline in our lending agreement, we are moving ahead as quickly as possible with the process of monetizing our digital imaging patent portfolio.”

Over the past 12 months, 20 parties have signed confidentiality agreements and have been provided access to an electronic data room.

The two portfolios “have different characteristics and may interest different buyers.” The Digital Capture Portfolio includes over 700 patents, covering key aspects of image capture, processing, and transmission technologies that are crucial to the design and operation of digital cameras and multi-function devices, including camera-enabled smartphones and tablets, the company says. The KISS Portfolio includes over 400 patents that cover technologies including image analysis, manipulation and tagging, and network-based services, including image storage, access, and fulfillment.

Since 2001, Kodak has generated more than $3 billion from licensing its digital imaging portfolio to industry leaders, including Samsung, LG, Motorola, and Nokia, and is currently pursuing patent litigation against infringers that include Apple, RIM, and HTC.

Kodak also sued Apple again this week to stop it from interfering with the sale plans, Reuters reports. Kodak says Apple wrongly claims to own 10 patents arising from work that the companies did together in the early 1990s.

Apple is “seeking to benefit from Kodak’s difficult financial position, which will be exacerbated if the debtors cannot obtain fair value for the patents,” Kodak says.

More information on the sale is here.



Kodak loses patent case against Apple and RIM

Kodak’s two-year struggle to secure royalties from Apple and Research in Motion for its patented image preview technology may be at an end, as a United States International Trade Commission judge ruled against the Rochester company, Bloomberg reports.

Worse, the patent itself was deemed invalid, “an obvious variation of earlier inventions.”

Kodak said it would appeal, and that the patent is used in all modern cameras. Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics have already paid $964 million in settlements.

More information is here.


Kodak updates all-in-one printer

The latest all-in-one inkjet printer from Kodak is targeted to photo-centric consumers and families who “want great value, quality, and simplicity,” the company says.
The $100 ESP 3.2 has easy Wi-Fi set-up and a 2.4-inch color touchscreen “for effortless navigation and a better ‘walk up and print’ experience,” Kodak adds.
More information is here.

Kodak also introduced a new free iPad version of Pic Flick, an app already out for Android tablets and phones, which creates personalized photo cards, collages, and prints, with captions and speech bubbles.


Shutterfly welcomes Kodak Gallery customers

Online photo service Shutterfly officially welcomed Kodak Gallery members — after it acquired Kodak’s online service and customers… and their images.

“Working together with Kodak Gallery over the coming months, Shutterfly will securely transfer every Kodak Gallery customer photo, more than five billion in total, to the Shutterfly platform, free of charge,” the company says. “We promise to make the transfer process very easy for customers and will communicate our progress every step of the way.”

Kodak Gallery customers have until May 28 to choose to opt out of moving their photos to Shutterfly.

The two competing services started on the same day in 1989. The Imaging Resource has a good historical look here.



Kodak and Samsung ally on consumer inkjet printing

Kodak and Samsung Electronics formed a strategic alliance to sell consumer inkjet printers in Europe. Under it’s own brand, Samsung will sell all-in-one inkjet printers using Kodak’s printer and proprietary ink technology.

“This announcement reflects both the strength of Kodak’s technology in the consumer inkjet market, and the progress we have made in building a competitive business,” Kodak says. “Samsung is able to leverage Kodak’s leading technology and imaging science to launch its inkjet printer business. And Kodak is able to further grow its business. It’s a win-win.”

Samsung says it “can benefit from Kodak’s vast experience in inkjet technology. Now we can offer additional products in a segment below our laser printer line-up, where Samsung has not been present up to now.”

The printers have launched in Germany.



Kodak consumer business president resigns

Kodak announced Pradeep Jotwani — president of the consumer business, chief marketing officer, and senior vice president — will resign from the company, effective May 31.

“We are grateful to Pradeep for his contributions in leading our Consumer Business and our brand management through a period of transformation, and we wish him well in his new endeavors,” the company says.

Laura Quatela was elected president and chief operating officer on January 1, and will assume direct responsibility for leadership of the Consumer Business.



Kodak App prints to CVS, Target

Kodak says that with its improved Gallery app, you can “order prints using the one thing you always carry with you: your iPhone” for same-day pickup at a CVS or Target stores.

The Gallery app lets users upload, share and collect photos with friends in a group album. “Ever been to a party or taken a trip where a bunch of friends took pictures that you never saw?” Kodak asks. “Problem solved — just start a Group Album, invite your friends to add their photos and voila! Everyone’s photos are in one place. “ The app can also share images by email, text, Facebook, or hundreds of other social networks.

Version 3 is free at the App Store.




Kodak adds Pinterest support to Android app


Kodak has added support for the Pinterest image sharing serve to its Gallery app for Android.

A recent survey shows 28 percent of Kodak Gallery users say they have joined Pinterest, Kodak reports. “Since we added Pinterest sharing to the app, it’s the 2nd most popular way people share photos behind email — almost 2X more popular than Facebook.”

Users can now share a single photo or entire album to a Pinterest board using the app, the company says. “Being able to pin photos directly from the Kodak Gallery mobile app addresses a basic issue for Pinterest users with Android devices. Since there is no Android app for Pinterest, we felt we could simply solve a problem for Android Pinterest users. Whether you are a Kodak Gallery member or not, this is the easiest way to pin your pictures from an Android device.”

The Kodak Gallery app for Android is free.






Where are the profits in digital imaging? Kodak, Printing, and Service

[Commentary] In our last editorial, we discussed Kodak’s unpreventable fall from the profits it enjoyed in the days of film and pricey photofinishing products: even the most successful company in consumer digital imaging is not making enough to counter those losses.

Digital imaging provides customers with all-but free enjoyment of photography: once a camera is purchased (or provided with a phone) each shot has none of the costs once standard with film, processing, and printing. Sharing those images with others no longer requires duplicate prints — just email, or better yet, a Facebook account.

Given that no one stands to make the money once garnered from analog photography, what can the industry do now?

Kodak announced that in its next incarnation it will again focus on output: both home photo printing and large-scale high-volume commercial reproduction.

These goals seem to more reflect the experience of CEO Antonio Perez during his years at HP than they do the best potential use of Kodak’s heritage.

Those goals are not the best bet on how people will use imaging in the future.

What should the company focus on? And is that area also a better option for many others in the photography industry?

Simply put: the future of any output is quite limited. Hard copy will never go away completely, but it is inarguably a declining market in terms of overall volume. Year after year, fewer photos will be put on paper. As everyone has a screen in their pocket on which to see pictures — their phone — as well as PCs, iPads, and who knows what else in the future — there is simply less need for a print.

Even seeing one’s best pictures in a large format no longer requires an 8×10 or larger print —now-ubiquitous big-screen TVs with HDMI connections to a camera can show everyone’s photos, and a 42-inch backlit color screen beats all but the best and biggest prints. Just think: all of us can now see our personal photos reproduced larger and with more brilliant color than anything short of top-end pro reproduction. Almost no one enjoyed that 10 years ago; now anyone can.

That trend of screens over prints is never going to reverse. This week, analysis from IDC showed even HP stands to make much less revenue on printer supplies.

So if the profits of the future are not going to be made on consumables — from where will they come?

As has been also argued to death everywhere, camera sales decline as everyone gets a smart phone. So image capture hardware is also unlikely to be the best bet.

Millions are finding that Facebook and the like provide almost everything else they need from photography: display, an audience, sharing, visual communication, feedback… Add in some full-resolution redundant storage, and what else do you want?

We have long argued the need for services. Perhaps such businesses do not scale as simply as adding another server, running the camera manufacturing line a bit longer, or, once upon a time, selling vastly more processing and printing consumables.

But what is scaling today is the number of images captured.

What is not growing are the options that allow average photographers to easily access and enjoy the thousands of photos they take.

It is no secret that most people take picture after picture with which they do nothing.

The industry’s response has merely been trying multiple ways to convince the would-be customer to pay to do something with their own photos.

Kodak’s original slogan points out the fallacy of this strategy. “You push the button, and we’ll do the rest.”

Today vendors — Kodak included – instead tell customers: “You push the button; then you have to get the photos from the camera to some other device; then you have to get the photos to a kiosk or online service; then you have to spend a lot of time organizing, editing, and enhancing those photos. Then you have to pay to do something with them.”

All that hardly translates to “We’ll do the rest.”

Imaging businesses: rather than complain today’s photographers don’t pay to “do something” with their photos — think about what you can do for them. (Yes, for a fee — we’re not advocating charity here.)

How does this scale?

Kodak itself is going after enterprise-level imaging services, just as HP has lately profited from focusing on corporate computing needs instead of home printer sales.

For smaller businesses, it can mean online imaging services.

For local retail shops, it can mean handholding customers through the image management, selection and enhancement that now stymies many from advancing onwards to photo output of any kind. Or, better yet, rather than handholding, take the task in hand completely and offer full-service imaging: customers bring in a laptop filled with photos, and leave with their best shots organized, enhanced, and even laid out into an onscreen and/or custom-printed photo book. Or calendars, slideshow videos on DVD, and other non-paper-based products and services.

Yes, any of these “solutions” have been available in some degree or another for years; the point here is not to proscribe specific actions or products, but to advocate for a return to “We’ll do the rest” — and away from what seems to be the current paradigm for the photo business: Self-service.

Just as Kodak made significant profits from simplifying consumer photography, perhaps other companies can now profit from further simplifying the consumer’s imaging tasks — or, better yet, eliminating those tasks altogether, letting the consumer “do” nothing but enjoy imaging.

“We’ll do the rest.”



Kodak quits camera business

Kodak announced plans to “phase out” its dedicated capture devices — pocket video and still cameras — as well as its digital picture frames in the first half of 2012.

The move will save more than $100 million operating savings annually, Kodak  says. The company will expand its brand licensing, so we’ll likely still see “Kodak” labeled cameras on store shelves… So while Kodak did not manufacture its digital cameras, in the future they will not even be directly offered by the venerable company, and instead just bear its logo.

Kodak’s consumer business will now consist of online and retail-based photo printing, and desktop inkjet printing. Kodak asserts it is “the clear worldwide leader” in retail-based photo kiosks and digital dry lab systems, with more than 100,000 kiosks and order stations for dry lab systems around the world; 30,000 of those units are connected to the most popular photo-sharing sites.

Kodak’s commercial businesses includes printing, enterprise services and solutions, and graphics, entertainment and commercial films units. Its digital businesses now comprise approximately three-fourths of total revenues, the company says.

Some of Kodak’s camera history:
1900: Kodak created the photography mass market with the Brownie.
1963: The Instamatic debuts, and goes on to sell more than 50 million by 1970.
1975: Kodak invents the first digital camera.
2005: Kodak ranks #1 in U.S. digital camera sales.
2010: Kodak falls to seventh in U.S. digital camera sales.

Please see: The Scale of Kodak’s Rise and Fall



Spun-off Kodak sensor business named Truesense

Kodak’s Image Sensor Solutions division was acquired by Platinum Equity last November — and now debuts as an independent company, Truesense Imaging.

The sensor provider says it will “continue to provide the industry’s broadest range of image sensor devices that combine the high resolution, ultra-fast frame speeds, and unmatched image quality that customers all over the world depend upon for their most demanding applications.”

Truesense is owned by Platinum Equity, and headquartered in Rochester, NY. “The company-owned facilities in Rochester house all research & development, marketing, and business operations, including a highly specialized image sensor manufacturing operation,” the company says.




The Scale of Kodak’s Rise and Fall

Almost 15 years ago, the leader of Kodak’s digital imaging group told us his company lost more in digital photography than everyone else, combined, ever made.

He was hardly bragging of course. He was instead illustrating two points:

1. Despite criticism even back then in 1998, Kodak was heavily involved in digital photography: researching, developing, producing, manufacturing, and partnering.

2. Few if any critics of Kodak’s lack of success in digital had any concept of the scale of Kodak’s business, and how small the digital photography market was in comparison.

Now it’s 2012, and everybody with a blog or a business column has jumped on the Kodak-bashing bandwagon. If there was a pun to be made about the famous “Kodak Moment,” you can bet some wannabe-analyst made the joke.

It is far too easy, in these days of ubiquitous digital capture and image sharing, to coach from the couch with 20/20 hindsight. “How could the world’s largest photography company not have seen this coming?” everyone asks. “And how could they not have profited from this huge boom in image capture?”

The first mistake many critics make is believing those two questions must have the same answer: that Kodak dropped the ball.

The truth is Kodak obviously did see the change coming. Not only did the company, as has been widely recounted in these last few weeks, develop the first handheld digital camera, it also led the way in analog-to-digital services, online storage and print ordering, in-store custom photo printing, and many other initiatives.

The problem is that second question — because even though the answer is that Kodak did profit from digital, those profits were not enough to counter the sheer magnitude of what was lost with its near-monopoly on film processing and picture printing.

What’s also missed in the criticism of Kodak is a simple fact: no other company has made enough money in digital photography to counter the massive loss of the analog film and photofinishing business. As my old colleague Harry McCracken observed, while Kodak failed to become the “Kodak of digital photography” — no one else has ever earned the equivalent of that position either.

Yes, companies like Canon and Nikon successfully transitioned from selling analog film cameras to digital cameras. And yes, they (as well as “newcomers” to photography like Sony) grew and profited immensely as digital imaging made much greater inroads in the consumer market than film photography ever had…

But no maker of best-selling cameras ever made profits equal to those that Kodak pocketed for decades from its film processing and picture printing.

It’s easy to demand, “Why didn’t Kodak try this, or that?”

But the difficult answer is that, even if it had succeeded more in cameras, home printers, online photo finishing, or other digital business models — Kodak today would still be a fraction of its past size.

The fact is the millions and millions of dollars once spent on film, processing, and prints is now all-but gone. Just as Kodak enjoyed the majority of those revenues for decades, it now bears the biggest brunt of their loss. [Of course Kodak is not alone in feeling this loss.]

Digital imaging has delivered easier, better photo capture to millions of people. It has not however, delivered unending millions and millions of dollars to any one particular company, as film did for Kodak.

In general terms: film photography was much, much more expensive per-shot for the user than digital. Thanks to its pioneering founder and decades of aggressive business practices, Kodak more than any other company benefited from all the costs associated with film.

On a per-picture basis, digital photography is cheap for the user. And so, even if Kodak had somehow, in these much more competitive times, been able to hold onto 80% of the photography business — it still would be but a shadow of its former self.

So please, let’s hear no more of all the many opportunities Kodak missed out on, or overlooked out of ignorance, or worst yet, chose to ignore out of arrogance. Name a digital imaging business model proposed or put in practice by anyone, and odds are Kodak tried it as well — and tried it with products and services that were always at least pretty good, and sometimes really great.

Most strikingly, critics point to successful camera and phone makers, and ask: How could Kodak have missed those markets?

Answer: it didn’t. Kodak offered lots of cameras — some of the first consumer pocket cameras, the first professional digital backs for high-end SLR’s, the first camera docks and share buttons for simpler use, the first consumer camera with well-implemented built-in Wi-Fi — and even some of the first mobile imaging devices with such attempts as a camera add-on for the original Palm PDA. Kodak was also for many years one of the top five best-selling camera makers in the United States and other leading markets.

But unlike in the analog days, selling a consumer a digital camera does not mean that customer will continue to generate revenue over the years by buying consumables.

And trying in digital imaging does not mean succeeding. Kodak’s lack of overwhelming success over many decades of effort does not mean Kodak’s leaders were morons. It simply means that for every option Kodak tried, there were many competitors also trying to stake out the new territory. It simply means that many if not most of Kodak’s efforts met with failure — just as most new business efforts do, and just as most digital imaging competitors did. And it simply means that success in one new niche would not have countered the losses elsewhere. (C’mon, criticizing Kodak for not being Shutterfly? Maybe Ofoto/Gallery never did as well — but it’s a drop in the bucket either way!)

Most simply, it means no one could have held onto 80% of the pie — not when dessert eaters switched to ice cream.

What’s next?

First: we’re not speaking of Kodak in the past tense: filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy is not going out of business — it means reorganization, from which a company emerges anew.

Kodak announced that in its next incarnation it will again focus on output: both home photo printing and large-scale high-volume commercial reproduction.

These goals seem to more reflect the experience of CEO Antonio Perez during his years at HP than they do the best potential use of Kodak’s heritage. Those goals are not the best bet on how people will use imaging in the future.

What should the company focus on? And is that area also a better option for many others in the photography industry?

We’ll discuss that next week. Until then, remember a certain famous slogan:

“Push the button, and we’ll do the rest.”



Kodak makes WiFi connections easier

With the Wireless Camera M750, Kodak says it is offering “the next advancement in WiFi sharing.”

The 16-megapixel camera represents “the perfect union of the smartphone and digital camera,” the company says. “The two technologies are now married to bring consumers the best experience from capture to share. You no longer need to connect to a computer to share your images… even if there is no WiFi network available,” as the camera will work with a phone’s WiFi connection. “Socially savvy users no longer have to compromise on image quality, now we can take great pictures and share instantly.”
The camera has a 3-inch capacitive touchscreen, and a 5x zoom lens, for $170.

Kodak also updated its compact camcorder with the Playfull Dual Camera, which its says combines a 1080p/60 fps HD video camera with a 12-megapixel still camera. The pocket video device has an external microphone jack, Xenon flash, and WiFi capabilities similar to the M750’s.

More information is here.


Kodak alleges patent infringement against Apple, HTC, Fujifilm

Kodak filed new lawsuits against Apple and HTC alleging the infringement of certain Kodak patents relating to digital imaging technology.

Apple’s iPhones, iPads, and iPods, and certain HTC smartphones infringe Kodak patents that relate to technology for transmitting images. Kodak also alleges that certain of HTC’s smartphones infringe a patent that covers technology related to a method for previewing images which is already the subject of pending actions against Apple.

The complaint was filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission. Kodak also filed suits today against Apple and HTC in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York alleging the same infringement.

“We’ve had numerous discussions with both companies in an attempt to resolve this issue, and we have not been able to reach a satisfactory agreement,” Kodak says. “Our primary interest is not to disrupt the availability of any product but to obtain fair compensation for the unauthorized use of our technology.”

Kodak says it has licensed patents related to digital imaging technology to more than 30 companies, including such leading mobile-device companies as LG, Motorola, Samsung and Nokia.

The patents include “Automatically Transmitting Images from an Electronic Camera to a Service Provider Using a Network Configuration File;” “Network Configuration File for Automatically Transmitting Images from an Electronic Still Camera;” “Capturing Digital Images to be Transferred to an E-Mail Address;” and “Digital Camera with Communications Interface for Selectively Transmitting Images over a Cellular Phone Network and a Wireless LAN Network to a Destination.”


Kodak also filed a lawsuit against Fujifilm for infringement of its patent on “Electronic Camera For Initiating Capture of Still Images While Previewing Motion Images” and others.



WS Journal reports Kodak Preparing for Chapter 11 Filing

Kodak is preparing for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy-protection filing, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The company is first trying to sell its digital imaging patents. If that does not yield the intended revenues, it is “in discussions with potential lenders for around $1 billion in so-called debtor-in possession financing that would keep it afloat during bankruptcy proceedings,” the Journal reports.

The full story is here.


Kodak sells its image sensor business

Kodak announced it has completed the sale of its Image Sensor Solutions (ISS) business “in a move that will sharpen Kodak’s operational focus and strengthen its financial position.”

The ISS business develops, manufactures, and markets the high performance solid state image sensor devices.

The buyer, Platinum Equity, specializes in the merger, acquisition and operation of companies that provide services and solutions to customers in a broad range of business markets.

“This is a great opportunity to acquire a business with an impressive record for delivering innovative solutions to customers around the world,” Platinum Equity says.

Financial details were not disclosed.

Kodak will have continuing access to the image sensor technology involved in this transaction for use in its own products.

Included in the sale is a 263,000 square foot facility in Eastman Business Park in Rochester, N.Y., that houses manufacturing and research facilities.