There was a time when Eastman Kodak (EK) was among the most innovative companies in the world. That was a long time ago, and it was one key innovation that Kodak passed over that lands the company where it is today: filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Kodak Long an Industry Leader
Founded by George Eastman in 1880, Kodak has been one of the most prominent companies in the world. Based out of Rochester, NY, the company was long a center for innovation and led the way on a variety of fronts. Eastman invented roll film 1885, shifting away from photographic plates and paving the way for the invention of the motion picture camera. The Kodak camera, released in 1888, is often seen as the device that gave birth to amateur photography and led to the portable camera. Even as late as 1976, Kodak had 90 percent of film sales and 85 percent of camera sales in the United States.
Company Brought Down by its Own Invention
The decline of Kodak can clearly be traced to the advent of the digital camera. However, for those ready to chastise Kodak for failing to continue innovating, it's worth noting that Kodak actually invented the tool of their own demise. Steven Sasson, the electrical engineer who invented the digital camera in 1975, was working for Kodak at the time. Unfortunately for Kodak, the company made several key missteps in the last 30 years that it was unable to recover from.
Kodak never fully put its weight behind efforts to shift into making digital cameras, failing to see the market trend that would destroy the lucrative sale of film for the company. Even before the market for film cameras and film evaporated, Kodak also suffered through increased competition from Japan's Fujifilm (FUJIY), which entered the market in the 1980s and secured a foothold when it became the official sponsor of the 1984 Olympics.
What Lies Ahead?
Kodak has secured $950 million in debtor-in-possession financing from Citigroup (C), and the company does have some attractive assets. Kodak began a strategy of aggressively litigating patents, and it still holds a number of valuable patents for digital technology. However, it seems clear that the glory days for this once-great company are long gone.
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