Kodak to file for bankruptcy

Kodak look like they will file for bankruptcy within the month. While its sad to see such a icon in this position. The question is why. A number of internet forums have built this to be a debate between film and digital which completely misses the mark. If you look at Kodak’s history, you can find the answers :

Kodak, once an industry powerhouse is now just a shadow of its former self. Kodak lead the charge into the consumer digital age way back in 1994 with the arrival of their DC series of cameras. One fact that a number of people might not know is that Kodak also developed and produced the only other competitor, the Apple Quicktake. It was no secret at that time that the Kodak board thought the Digital Cameras would have very little effect on their very lucrative film business. How wrong could they have been?

In 1994 Kodak was the first company to introduce their very successful DSLR series — the DCS. They were No 1 in both the consumer and professional markets. In the consumer market, Kodak made a decision to produce low-end low-cost consumer cameras. This saw them go from No 1 in the DC market in the late 90’s to second place in 2001. Second place came at a cost for Kodak €” $60 per digital camera sold. While other companies like Canon & Nikon were increasing market share, Kodak slumpted to a 7% market share in 2010, and was rated a low 7th place in the US market. And their once lucrative film market had also collapsed.

The DSLR market suffered the same outcome that the their consumer cameras had. A massive reduction in market share while Canon and Nikon was growing theirs at a rapid rate. Just before they gave up on the DSLR altogether in 2005, Kodak released one of the worst DSLR cameras in history — the DCS14N. They do still produce sensors for cameras likes the Leica M9.

There last attempt to revive the company’s future was the Inkjet printer market, which again cost the company every printer sold. The company did have some revenue through patent licensing and patent litigation which amounted to some $800 million in 2010. Back in 2011 Kodak put some 1100 patents up for sale, they received very little interest. Which now bring them to the position they are in now, filing for bankruptcy.

It appears the rot started as far back as 1994 when they failed to see what the advent of the digital cameras would do to our industry. They have brought us some great products over the years but it is amazing to think that a once-market-leader could be in this position due mainly to a decade and a half of poor corporate decisions.