If there ever was a poster child for a company that got really, really hurt because of technology passing it by, it would have to be Kodak.
Digital imagery has been around a long time: NASA converted to digital for its moon-mapping probes in the ’60s. This allowed them to enhance images, which represented significant advancement.
But Kodak is credited with inventing the digital camera; in 1975, one of their engineers came up with the first “digital still camera.” It went nowhere. Then in 1981, Sony came out with the Mavica, a not-quite-digital camera using Nikon or Canon lenses. It stored images on a two-inch disk, which could then be used to view the pictures on your TV. Further evolutions produced models that used standard 3.5-inch floppies that could then be read by your PC. There was no turning back.
By 1991, Kodak had its DCS 100 model. Also based on a Nikon body, it had a shoulder mounted storage unit that looked like a small suitcase. The corporation continued to innovate; many of its sensors were used by Canon and others, and the sizes finally got smaller — not compact by any means, but no longer looking like you were carrying an alien on your back.
By 1998, Kodak was producing a 6 megapixel camera and selling it to the Associated Press, etc. There still wasn’t much public demand, however; perhaps that suggested retail price of $28,500 slowed sales just a wee bit.
But everything wasn’t quite that silly. In 2000, I carried an affordable little Canon Sureshot on a trip to England and came home with some wonderful pictures. I had a Kodak inkjet printer then too, to (slowly) make photo-quality prints. The biggest limitation was the number of shots on a memory stick. Subsequent major increases in chip capacity and a drop in prices cured that issue.
So, what happened to Kodak?
Simply put, the corporation waited far too long to recognize and respond to the threat to its core business. An initial posture of “only a few geeks will want that” was coupled with management’s fear of losing a greatly profitable film and processing business, which had defined and sustained Kodak since 1888.
Kodak dominated the market for so long that the corporation was blind, and when it did try to change, much of middle management was not on board. Attempts by the CEO to change things were not well received. Maybe they were blinded by the stunning 60-foot long Kodak ads in New York’s Grand Central Station, featuring beautiful images and promoting “Kodak moments.”
Results: Not Pretty
My daughter lives in Rochester, N.Y. (Kodak’s home city), and thus has witnessed Kodak’s demise. Large buildings on the Kodak campus are being imploded, job loss is severe and the community is suffering in many ways.
Like many large companies, their executives were stalwarts of local nonprofit boards, sponsored many events and worked with numerous charities. Not any more. The ripple effect has been unpleasant.
Back to Learning
So what’s my point? Kodak is learning. For some time, I’ve been getting e-mail promotions from it, featuring everything from prints at really low prices to sweatshirts and coffee mugs with your shots emblazoned on them. Nothing astounding there — in many ways it’s just an extension of its processing business, except you e-mail it the images instead of carrying in the film.
But this week came The Announcement: You can now order prints from your iPhone.
Maybe I’m overreacting to this, but I think it’s really significant that a moribund company that resisted the digital future now has an app that lets you send images off directly, with pick-up of prints at CVS and Target stores. I’m not sure how the company is making money off that, except charging Target for the referral, but it’s wonderful.
So, there’s hope after all.
Also Not Pretty
The explosion in fake e-mails has been impressive this last month. Perhaps the biggest has been the fake airline reservation confirmation. Following closely behind is the Verizon Wireless bill (which is strange, since I use AT&T) or the American Express notice of payment, which is usually for several thousand dollars to someone you’ve never heard of. PayPal is also in the mix, of course.
The common thread of these is a “click here” button to “view more information.” As mentioned last month, you can read the true address of these links by hovering your cursor over them without clicking, just to see who is trying to get you.
Needless to say, actually clicking these links produces about the same result as smacking your computer with a brick. Not recommended.
Besides the quality of the graphics used (often copied pixel-by-pixel from the real company’s web site), it’s interesting to note the amazing array of countries where this junk originates. Eastern Europe is always a biggie, but Brazil is large as well, with a few Asian sites coming up in the rankings.
And note that the wording is often normal, rather than the “hello software user,” followed by skewered English of the past. So beware.
Cliff Feldwick is president of Riverside Computer Consulting and does PC troubleshooting and network setups for small companies, when not trying to find something less ugly to write about. He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Older columns are available at Feldwick.com.