Founded in 1892 by George Eastman himself, Eastman Kodak is one of America’s most iconic corporations. Kodak can be credited with the invention of amateur photography, among many other technological evolutions. But where does it stand today? The sad facts point to a company that is near death in all aspects of its financial health.
Headquartered in Rochester, NY, Eastman Kodak is partly responsible for the rise and unfortunately the demise of the local economy. In its heyday, Kodak employed over 60,000 people in Rochester alone; today that number is down to only 7,400! Teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, Kodak has fallen back on its long inventory of patents and commercial printing ventures.
In January of 2010, Kodak began enforcing its patents. It kicked off what will be a decade’s worth of court battles by suing Apple and Research In Motion (RIM). The case was based on patent infringement in regards to digital photography. Unfortunately Kodak lost this battle, but it continues to pursue other infringements with other organizations. Now that Kodak has reached a point where it fears losing everything, the company is toying with the idea of holding a fire sale of its patents in a desperate attempt to drum up needed revenue.
Kodak’s other angle of revitalization has been in the digital print arena. Kodak’s NextPress has been a strong player in the toner-based digital print markets. The most intriguing venture into digital print, however, has come in the form of inkjet technology. Kodak is developing high-volume solutions for digital color inkjet printing and imprinting. It will have a tough time competing with HP in all digital print arenas, but for now Kodak seems to be on the right page.
It’s hard to watch the demise of a well-known American brand. Kodak has always been innovative and creative, and I hope it can continue that in the future. This could be labeled a sign of the hard economic times, but I say it’s a sign of short-sighted business planning. This should remind us that we need to keep looking forward to try to anticipate market changes, or at least be flexible enough to adapt quickly to new models.
So, will this be the company’s Kodak Moment?
Author: John Mehl