Monday, February 06, 2012

A "Kodak Moment"...of Inertia

Around the same time that Apple Inc. reported that it was sitting on close to $100-billion in cash, Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

I'm sure this story will become a "textbook" case in the years ahead on how no company can survive without adapting to the changing times. Who would have ever thought that we could get by without such nifty devices as typewriters, cassette tape players, and turntables? In the 70's these devices were as ubiquitous as laptop computers are today. And in Kodak's case, who doesn't have a drawer full of albums full of prints of family gatherings and vacations?

It seems unfathomable that the products of one of the most recognizable brand names on the planet are no longer needed. Photos haven't gone away as there are likely more of them taken in any hour on any given day today than were taking in an entire month a generation ago. But who needs albums of prints when you can store 15 000 photos on a piece of godlike technology attached to your hip that we all walk around with nowadays?

Did Kodak see it coming? They must've, but an old dinosaur will move slowly in the muck, mired in its own inertia. Kodak's failure to introduce anything meaningful once the digital age dawned became its undoing. At its heart, Kodak was a chemical company and behaved as such. It wasn't nimble enough to take advantage of the changing photography mindset of consumers who had grown accustomed to hearing the click of a mouse rather than the click of a shutter. Imagine for a second if Kodak had introduced a system similar to iTunes (kPhotos?) that would've allowed users to manipulate and share images. Too late now, but the company that invented the digital camera in 1975 could have easily had the jump on the rest of the world.

I wonder what lessons companies like Nokia, Sony, Research in Motion, and Blockbuster will take from the Kodak saga. They are well on their way to becoming tomorrow's beached whales and only time will tell if they have the will and fortitude to adapt or have already had their "Kodak Moment"?