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A Tale of Two Companies 70

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the dying-breed dept.
Rick Zeman writes "They've had the best of times, and now they're living through the worst of times. The Washington Post talks about the dissolution of both Kodak's and Polaroid's business models, what Kodak can learn from Polaroid's earlier mistakes, and the resurrection of some classic Polaroid tech by private entrepreneurs."
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A Tale of Two Companies

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  • Poor management (Score:4, Interesting)

    by graphius (907855) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @01:15PM (#42161765) Homepage

    Polaroid was always a bit of a niche company. They happened to be in a fairly big niche, but they were very unique in what they did. Their monopoly kept them going until the market changed.

    Kodak was killed by shortsighted managers who could not understand the implications when they invented digital photography.

    [car analogy] Both companies were buggy whip producers. Kodak invented the internal combustion engine, but never thought it would catch on.[/car analogy]

  • Wrong Example (Score:3, Interesting)

    by samuisan (142967) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @01:21PM (#42161809)

    The article is wrong, both companies were doomed by hopelessly incompetant managers who either failed to see the coming end of film, or else saw it but failed to act (exercise for the student to decide which is worse.)

    It didn't have to be like this, look at Fuji to see how a company could switch its main product and survive.

    Pity, so many people lost jobs because of a few retarded managers at the top of their companies.

  • Re:Poor management (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @01:25PM (#42161841) Journal

    Polaroid was always a bit of a niche company. They happened to be in a fairly big niche, but they were very unique in what they did. Their monopoly kept them going until the market changed.

    Kodak was killed by shortsighted managers who could not understand the implications when they invented digital photography.

    [car analogy] Both companies were buggy whip producers. Kodak invented the internal combustion engine, but never thought it would catch on.[/car analogy]

    The 'buggy whip' analogy isn't quite fair to Kodak. The techniques required to produce their particular buggy whips involved a fair amount of chemical expertise. That spun off as Eastman Chemical [eastman.com] in 1994. They may or may not be setting the world on fire; but nobody is preparing their funeral. This doesn't change the fact that Kodak is still totally fucked, or that they managed to almost entirely fail to capture the future that they invented; but if we had to horribly overload the buggy-whip analogy, it'd be fair to say that Kodak is still trying to sell buggy whips to the consumer transport market, while the market has moved on to BDSM fetishists and the production of diversified specialty leather goods.

  • Incidentally... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @01:37PM (#42161909) Journal

    Given how frequently(and often painfully, toward the end) companies seem to founder in the face of structural changes that they can't do much about(short of essentially re-founding as something else, just carrying over the campus and the capital), I have to wonder if there has been any work done outside of the barbaric corporate raider sector on building companies with clean exit strategies...

    After all, there isn't any reason why a company needs to struggle to perpetuate its existence forever(any more than a company would struggle to perpetuate the existence of a given product line forever). Sure, the process that companies who do fight and then die go through is pretty grim; but that is, at least in part, because they keep struggling even after the situation is hopeless, and just bleed and bleed and bleed.

    Is there a process where you just quit before you are behind, wind down neatly, rather than the corporate equivalent of spending a few years stuck full of tubes and unresponsive in the ICU?

  • the Real Problem... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lemur3 (997863) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @02:18PM (#42162119)

    Part of the problem that Kodak had was less to do with the Digital Revolution and somewhat more to do with the complex formulations of their photographic emulsions.

    As I understand it some of these emulsions are so sensitive to variables that one merely couldn't take the "recipe" and scale it down to a smaller run which would work wherever a coating machine existed.. The Kodak Photo Engineers had to tweak and develop the emulsion formulations for the various films they produced to suit each vessel which they were mixed in/stored in/expelled from during production...

    With many of the engineers aging and few young people coming in to the work force having the hands on access to emulsions and coating machines to learn the very specialized techniques of the Photographic Emulsion Engineering guys it put kodak in a situation where scaling down and suiting the changing market would become more and more difficult.

    The end result seems to be they were producing far more film than they could sell, and were having to store it instead of making profit off of it... running operations that they knew were too large... and stuck in a spot where loyal customers might not accept the changes in emulsions that may come from downsizing the operation...

    Digital imaging certainly hurt.. but the extremely complex emulsions and coating really didnt help.

    The biggest loss from Kodak and as we are finding with the people trying to replicate Polaroids instant films.. is the stuff you dont learn in chemistry class, or from a masters degree in Photography.. its knowing how to troubleshoot problems with emulsions and make consistent high quality coating machines..

    While a lot of the processes in the history of the medium of photography can be done without much trouble as a DIY thing.. modern high speed emulsion films and developing papers are one of the few things that are, even with the right tools and ingredients.. likely out of the realm of possibility for the most hardcore of us. (with only a few people i know of even attempting this)

    This is not a "good riddance" type thing.. high speed modern film isnt replaced by digital..

    With the death of many of these former emulsion engineers we stand to lose a photographic process that has been with us for over 100 years.. and that sucks.

     

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @02:26PM (#42162173)

    Kodak's CEO, Antonio Perez, was named to Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

    http://pmanewsline.com/2011/02/24/antonio-perez-appointed-to-the-president%E2%80%99s-council-on-jobs-and-competitiveness/#.ULudQOS1Uzk [pmanewsline.com]

  • by Teun (17872) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @03:10PM (#42162437) Homepage
    At the original factory for Polaroid media in The Netherlands some guys are again producing the 'film' you need to continue using your late model Polaroid cameras:
    http://www.the-impossible-project.com/?nointro=1 [the-imposs...roject.com]
  • Re:Poor management (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fermion (181285) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @03:19PM (#42162487) Homepage Journal
    There was little Kodak or Polaroid could do. Technology just made the mass market of what they where selling irrelevant. Expensive instant photography is meaningless with camera phones and instant [s][t]exting. Kodaks mass product, easy snaps that produce high quality are not going to compete when software can create superior images with inferior hardware and no consumables.

    This was not competing with free or irrelevance due to a a change in power source. This was a complete hange in relationship to a product. Even if cameras were still not in phones, and cost $200, Kodak would still be toast. It is not economical to buy film and pay for prints that last a life time when one can print the stuff you want on demand for an equal cost, if you want.

    The reason Kodak and Polaroid failed is the reason that firms should fail. They get too big and sales can't support the inefficiencies. The products are still in demand, ,just not at the same volumes. If we would allow and encourage such companies to fail, things might be much better.

  • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @03:54PM (#42162659)
    I was going to submit this as a story, but this works.

    http://money.msn.com/investing/worst-business-decisions-ever [msn.com]

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