Kodak, the company that invented the personal camera over 100 years ago and a brand that’s an integral part of our culture, has announced they are filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Although Kodak has kept a brave face and struggled to keep up with the new digital world, photography industry and business analysts have been predicting this for a while. Photographic film and chemicals, the core of Kodak’s business, are almost a thing of the past. Film photography has become a novelty for young photographers or a specialty product for a few fine-art, wedding and commercial photographers.
Update: Kodak posted an official statement about their Chapter 11 reorganization today, in the form of a Web page. I’ve added a link to that page at the end of this article.
It’s not that Kodak ignored the move to digital photography. They’ve been a player in the digital camera market for years, making professional digital SLRs, digital camera sensors and point-and-shoot digital cameras. In fact, Kodak was experimenting with digital cameras as early as the mid-70’s and introduced one of the first serious digital cameras, the DCS-100 in 1991. Unfortunately, they probably tried too hard to hold onto the film business and didn’t focus enough on digital technology.
Kodak did make an appearance at the annual CES tradeshow in Las Vegas this month and they’ve recently been trying to sell patents and sue for patent violations to bring in much-needed cash. But patent sales and lawsuits probably isn’t a sustainable business model for Kodak.
Does the bankruptcy filing mean that the ubiquitous yellow Kodak logo will disappear? Probably not. Kodak is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy – that means reorganization, not closing the doors and selling off all their assets. It’s an attempt to eliminate overwhelming debt and get back to work on their core products. The question is – in 2012, what are Kodak’s core products? What do they need to do to become profitable again and stay in the game?