Kodak's Chapter 11 and other things to worry about

The problem with Kodak is completely unrelated to the fate of gelatin film. It's running a business.

Kodak has all sorts of technolgies and patents. Kodak made the first dSLR but they don't sell any dSLRs today. They did a bunch of research projects of all sorts to define the future of film and imaging and so on. They made printers and scanners and software and so on. They have made so many products that just didn't catch on at all.

There's kind of two ways to go. Either you figure out how to market the heck out of a declining technology for decades to come or you grit your teeth and prepare to canabalize your own market.

Adobe is a great example of the first. They haven't done anything with PostScript in a long long time. It is not a critical part of the imaging pipeline anymore. There's no reason why high-end printers pay them royalties for PostScript interpreters anymore, but they still do. They re-package and glitz up and find new ways to make money and have largely succeeded.

Apple is a great example of the second. The iPad cannibalizes the MacBook, the iPhone cannibalizes the iPod, and they have even been cannibalizing the desktop market with laptops. Even when they moved to what is essentially commodity hardware, they made their commodity hardware slicker than anybody else.

Kodak has tried both and succeeded at neither. And I'm armchair quarterbacking because I know I probably wouldn't do a great job if you made me Kodak CEO.

I'm not sure if this means that Kodak film is going away or what. It mostly depends on the result of the Chapter 11. Do mild improvements in film technologies, perhaps splitting that part of the company and selling it off like the Impossible Project, and you might be able to keep film going out of Kodak for quite some time to come.

If you think about it, I have two things to stress out about. First, I need to worry about this being the end of film. And then I also need to worry about the death of the Micro Four Thirds system.

But, really, that's not productive. People who spend too much time worrying about the death of film won't have fun right now. I mean, I had a lot of fun with Ektachrome IR, in those limited days when I was able to. I can make do indefinitely with Fuji film and Fuji is overall healthier.

And, if tomorrow, I woke up to read that all film everwhere was off the market and, at the same time, Olympus went bankrupt and Panasonic was leaving the camera market, I would probably whine and gripe to my wife and end up saving up for a nice full-frame dSLR and a small number of prime lenses for it.

Meanwhile, I have models to photograph and mountains to climb and stuff like that.


A bunch of interesting stuff came out at CES; I'll write about that tomorrow.

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