back to article Kodak heading to Chapter 11

It's not what you'd call a Kodak moment: Eastman Kodak, the very image of film-based photography, is heading for the Chapter 11 knackers yard because its management, despite the most visible and public threat imaginable from digital photography, has failed to get Kodak out of the digital trap. The Wall Street Journal reports …

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  1. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    It deserves to die.

    1. BillG Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Why they deserve to die

      Kodak deserves to die because it is a Country Club company - that is, to Kodak's poor excuse for a CEO and board, the company ONLY exists to provide income to support their lavish lifestyles. The employees are something they lay off to stay afloat.

  2. John F***ing Stepp

    But they do make the best printers.

    Damn, I will have to start overpaying for ink again.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Sir

      This was satire, yes?

      I certainly hope so, because the failure rate on Kodak printers is astonishing.

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      They do make good printers except they break too often.

      Shame really I loved my easyshare. Now I have a HP pos that at least is reliable.

      They also make very good wifi and email enabled digital photo frames that works brilliantly for the grandparents. It seems to be one of the best on the market.

    3. Chad H.

      It was good to see some honesty in the printer business

      none of this "Pay more for ink than the damn device" junk other manufacturers pull (I'm looking at YOU lexmark)

  3. LaeMing
    Unhappy

    Sad. Another star goes down.

    Just couldn't wean themselves off the chemicals.

    1. Mike Richards Silver badge

      See also Polaroid.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hmm quite sad indeed.

      My first camera when I was a nipper of 5 years old was an old Kodak box that shot 110 film, given to me by my Nan, well over 40 years ago. My first digital camera, way back in '97 was a huge clunky Kodak thing that shot a maximum resolution of 640x480, a long way from the Canon 5DM2 I shoot now!

      Sad to see the company started by Mr Eastman many years ago, and also started my keen interest in photography, driven into the ground by stupidity at management level.

      I believe the name Kodak was chosen by Eastman as it meant nothing and could be used anywhere, plus Eastman saw the letter K as quite a strong letter when used in company branding.

  4. EyeCU
    WTF?

    I want a job like that

    How come the larger the company the more obscene the bonus is for doing a piss poor job and running it into the ground? $6m for being useless while us mere mortals can be fired without a penny for missing targets that quite often are unrealistic to begin with.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I assume the billions are US billions. So it would appear that running the company into the ground still entitles you to about one-thousandth of the total revenue. how many employees in total?

  5. gautam

    RIP Kodak

    Well written article. There is something about big business, where the top management never sees the impending disaster in full frontal view of it approaching.

    Is it arrogance? I think so.

    Some examples: Titanic (the ship), GE (of Britain), ICI (of Britain), British Steel, Amstrad, Nokia, HP (getting there), Motorola (nearly died), RIM (Blackberry- launch of tethered playbook with no ecosytem),.......one can add more.

    A nice race to the bottom.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Amstrad !

      They made shit products and deserved to die.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Amstrad didn't die though...

        ... they were bought out by BSkyB who wanted to do the Apple "Own it end to end" piece.

        As far as I can see AMS walked away with a nice tidy sum...

        1. /dev/null
          Stop

          But the *original* Amstrad...

          ...was wound up in 1997. The Amstrad that came after was actually phone manufacturer Betacom, which had been a subsidiary of the original Amstrad.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No, they made cheap and cheerful products that anyone could afford to buy and enjoy using. They may have been a bit plasticy and bit shitty but a lot of people I know had their first computer experience on a CPC micro or cheapo PC clone made by Amstrad. My own first PC experience was on an Amstrad PC1640 which my old man worked lots of overtime to afford for my family, so we had a chance at not being left behind when home IT took off. That cheap and cheerfull PC clone lead me to choose to go to college and study CS/IT properly and then go on to a career in IT.

        I think Alan Sugar was/is a real wide-boy, Del Trotter type, but he gave people a leg up and chance to ensure they didn't get left behind when home technology took off.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Arrogance? You Bet...

      and as ever yesterday's Dilbert was absolutely on the money.

      http://dilbert.com/strips/2012-01-05/

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They missed the whole point of disruptive technology

      The way I read the company a few years ago, Kodak correctly saw that the developed world was moving to digital cameras, but, they thought that they could still make good money selling their "old" technology into the developing nations (no pun intended).

      Why wouldn't this be the case? The developing nations were decades behind in many (tech) ways, so there must be decades of selling old tech to them while they catch up.... right?

      The problem is that the developing world jumped straight to digital.

      The same applies to networks, a nation with no network can drop a wireless station onto every hill and catch up almost instantly. They must laugh at all the copper we have running under our pavements.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Compare & Contrast

    Compare and Contrast this with Fuji Film who had exactly the same dilemma and have diversified into other fields, using their printing and imaging knowledge to make cameras, optics etc.. and branch out from this using their chemical understanding to move into the medical, pharmaceutical and cosmetic areas.

  7. glenalec
    Facepalm

    With appologies to Paul Simon.

    If I look back on all the crap I learned at Buis-school,

    It's not surprising I can hardly think at all.

    And my lack of techie forsight rather hurt me,

    I went and sent the whole $%^%$ company to the wall.

  8. Been there, done that

    Hindsight? Not in the least

    I distinctly remember a talk I attended back in 1984, when the company I worked for at the time did some joint research with Kodak. One of our guys had returned from an extended visit to Kodak; he began his talk by saying, "Kodak is a funny place. It's a company full of chemical engineers who really, really wish they'd studied computer science."

    Hindsight? No. It was obvious, 27 years ago.

  9. Michael Xion
    Headmaster

    Damn you, autocorrect, damn you

    So, no tweet answer to the "bass question" then.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Been There done That

      I had pretty well the same thoughts in 1975 when I went there for a Job after Graduating.

      Ironically at EMI as well, lots of engineers wishing they'd deen the other sode of the microphone.

      At the time, they were at the forefront of Medical Scanner development.

    2. bob, mon!
      Pint

      re: Hindsight

      That's a spooky recollection... in 1985 I left Kodak to go back to grad. school in... Computer Science. Of course, now I'm a professor, and my farts don't stink.

      Beer icon, cuz it gives me gas.

    3. multipharious

      to be fair Fuji...

      ...was already eating Kodak's chemical paper and film lunch. Rochester has been under siege for years and they have just failed to react properly to protect their market and their company.

      Chapter 11. My oh my.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        In addition...

        ...I think Fuji was smart enough to focus on the one part of the old process that still had significance: the printing. They adapted the process to one that could used image files as the base, and suddenly digital cameras weren't a concern at that end (since many people still want physical prints in the end). I'm sure you'll find many print labs still using Fuji equipment (I know Walmart still uses them for their standard photo systems--the "instant" jobs go through HP) and Fuji digital camera processing frontends.

    4. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      But they did make some excellent CCD chippery even then

      We used one of their early KAF chips in image analysed microscopy 23 years ago. The KAF series of CCD chips is highly regarded, but their use is mainly in the astronomy market (small niche), and in medical imaging cameras (smallish but lucrative niche). Some of their chips found their way into digital cameras (an early digital Nikon as I recall). Quite a few astronomers are seriously alarmed that only one big player will remain in the CCD manufacturing business (Sony). CCDs are more sensitive (through larger fill factor) than CMOS chips, but this is only really of concern in seriously low-light conditions (such as astronomy and fluorescence microscopy).

      The problem seems to be they did not see CMOS chippery replacing CCDs as the norm on regular cameras. So apparently they fumbled in (at least) two ways: they did not judge the full impact of digital photography on their film business, and they kept focusing on CCD chips more than CMOS.

  10. Adrian Jones

    Paging Cory Doctorow...

    Anyone know how Duracell are doing?

    1. Chad H.

      It has to be said...

      They keep Going, and Going, and Going. Or was that Energiser?

      1. multipharious

        Duracell is owned by Gillette

        Which was purchased by Proctor and Gamble a few years back. P&G has no qualms about ditching an unprofitable division though, or splitting one out and setting it free.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          In any event...

          Both Duracell and Energizer are still going. People still need alkaline batteries for their everyday stuff, and they keep a diverse line of specialist batteries (such as lithium watch batteries, NiMH rechargables--they incidentally keep working on that tech to differentiate themselves, it's why we have batteries that hold charges for longer), so I don't think either one is going away anytime soon (in any event, Energizer is now a conglomerate with acquisitions in personal care products as well). Nor is Rayovac, which continues to hold a nice spot at the low end of the battery spectrum.

  11. TheOtherJola
    FAIL

    David Allen did a bit on this sort of thing

    He of GTD fame said that, once, a company who made precision drill bits couldn't fend off cheap competition from China, so they re-focused their business. Did they make drill bits? No, they were in the market of making excellent holes. What else can do that? Frickin' lasers.

    The company was reinvented and became very successful.

    The same should have happened here. Are Kodak in the market of making film? No, they're in the market of producing great quality photos. The printer thing should have been completed by a digital camera thing (much firmer than the one we were subjected to) and a scanner thing, and a data storage thing, and an online archive thing, and a sheet-feed photo-scanner-archive thing, and a ... you get the idea.

    For the company to stare at the writing on the wall for *this long* ... as someone else said, they deserve all they get.

    1. Timo

      @ TheOtherJola - they tried

      Kodak did try to fill out their photo portfolio, but failed, pretty miserably, as evidenced by their poor returns. About what you'd expect from a bunch of chemistry people who wandered into the field of photography.

      Kodak's desktop software ("Kodak Image Gallery" or something like that) came out in the early 00's. Did a decent job pulling in pictures and presenting them. Achilles heel? Not possible to export the gallery meta-data to another computer, you know, as in migrating to a new machine. Also braindead on handling imports of duplicate snaps. Whoops. Picasa handily took over when it came out. So cross Kodak off of the data storage and archiving possibilities.

      Kodak's digital cameras were also laughable. We had what was probably a second-gen one. 3.1 Megapixels, gave good picture quality. Live-view did not exist, slower than ages to focus and take a picture, and the thing ate batteries like mad and was picky about them on top of it. We hated it so much we went back to using film.

      So Kodak, rather than think they were in the picture business, building a whole portfolio around their chemicals and their processing systems, should have built chemical-processing solutions for any other industry. They were probably also scared to death to invent or commercialise a product that would disrupt their chemistry business.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yep - two more for you...

      Railroads thought they were in the railroad business, and still do.

      Airlines think they are in the airline business, and still do.

      WRONG - they are in the transportation business, and as soon as better transportation comes along, they are (or will be), dust.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Thing is...

        ...the roads, rails, and skies all have physics to bolster their advantages. If you want delivery from warehouse straight to warehouse, it's hard to beat a tractor-trailer that can travel the roads from loading bay straight to loading bay. That said, trains have advantages in bulk and less friction to fight, which is why they can transports lots of stuff for much less per mile than truck. And then you have jets: when speed is a must.

        It'll be interesting to see how any of these can be unseated while still obeying the physics that give each method its preferred niche.

  12. adnim Silver badge

    Rather ironic

    that an Eastman Kodak engineer Steven Sasson is credited (in some circles) as the inventor of the digital camera circa '75 utilising the CCD invented in '69 by Willard Boyle and George Smith. Eastman Kodak also invented the worlds first megapixel sensor in '86.

    1. LaeMing
      Unhappy

      I assume...

      ...the engineers responsible were subsequently discouraged from further messing about in areas not the core-product.

  13. J. Cook Bronze badge
    Go

    Wow...

    That's just a shame, really. Kodak did make some pretty decent digital cameras... 6 years ago. (sure, it's only 4MP, but the glass and imaging ASIC were very good for the price point and the technology level)

    I will also note that Nikon also diversified quite some time ago as well, going into microscopy and other imaging fields other then pure film.

    The real question is this: what will happen to the retro folks and hipsters who still use their film cameras?

    1. Quxy
      Unhappy

      Kodak already sold off the image sensor technology

      The article failed to mention that Kodak sold off its last viable business -- Image Sensor Solutions -- two months ago. Since that was the one and only technology Kodak still had going for them, that was the point when the industry realised that Kodak was really and truly dead.

      1. Grease Monkey

        What you've failed to mention is why they sold off ISS. They were already going down the tubes which is why they sold their sensor business since it was the only bit of the business worth anything. The idea being, presumably, to get some capital to pay off their creditors. As a solution this stank. Maybe they could pay of some of their creditors, but the business that was left would no longer be viable.

        It would have made more sense to sell off other parts of the business. Sure they would probably have got a couple of dollars for the whole shebang, which would hardly have paid off their creditors. What it would have done, however, would have have been to leave a viable business that their creditors would have been happy could pay back their debts long term.

        1. Quxy

          @Grease Monkey

          Yeah, that was my point. Selling off ISS was the death knell for what remained of Kodak, since it was the only viable business they had.

          1. GettinSadda
            WTF?

            I can't help thinking that ten years or so back (once the writing on the wall had become too big to ignore) they should have split the business into two separate companies owned by a holding company. Then you get Kodak Film Products and Kodak Digital Products owned by "Kodak". Over time you grow KDP and allow KFP to shrink. If KFP fails, you let it go bust and live on with the remaining KDP owned by "Kodak".

            Is this a naïve way of looking at it? If it was possible, surely we would currently be seeing headlines such as "Kodak's ageing film division collapses as Kodak Group goes from strength-to-strength".

    2. Kimo

      Too bad they didn't fall back on their long history of selling affordable, quality cameras (despite what the article states). My 1950s Retina is still going strong, and has Leica-quality glass on a German-made body. But I've been running Ilford products on it exclusively since Kodachrome died.

    3. Paul RND*1000
      Facepalm

      "The real question is this: what will happen to the retro folks and hipsters who still use their film cameras?"

      Same thing that the professional photographers who still use film will do: buy from Fujifilm, Ilford, Foma, Efke/Adox, Rollei, some Chinese companies and more than likely Kodak, since they continue to operate while they restructure under Chapter 11 and their film division supposedly has been one of the growth areas within the company.

      Even if Kodak imploded tomorrow morning there's not exactly a shortage of companies still making film, though Fuji are the only major player left in color film besides Kodak.

  14. Marty
    Facepalm

    how?

    how the hell can a CEO be paid such a ridiculous amount of money for failure....

    they haven't turned a profit since 2007, two years after he sat in the big chair... and its only the last year he had his pay cut by half for not reaching targets... what was the target? grind the company into the ground?

    the only thing kodak have left of value is a handful patents (most will be for obsolete technology) and its name... the current batch of printers are not good.....

    1. Captain Underpants
      Facepalm

      @Marty

      Yeah, that's what keeps getting me.

      What kind of idiot thought that, having had problems for several years, letting the CEO continue working to a contract where making hundreds of millions of dollars of losses would be rewarded with millions of dollars?!

      No doubt at the same time all the lower-down plebs were on salary freezes with bonuses a distant memory while "the company tightens its belt to find a viable future". Been there, done that (for a large multinational whose then CEO was later found guilty of embezzling funds, as it happens).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And the reason they made a profit in 2007?

      The reason they made a profit in 2007 was because they sold all their OLED Intellectual Property to LG - Talk about selling the family silver!

      They had been making a huge loss for years before that and would have made another loss if it wasn't for this sale.

      Coincidently and I am sure purely unintentionally this reset the clock so every body says they made a loss since 2007 - sounds so much better than they have made a loss for over a decade.

  15. SimonB

    "Kodak could be making light-sensing chippery"

    They already do. They make a very fine range of CCDs.

    1. Quxy
      Unhappy

      Did.

      They sold off that division two months ago.

      1. Dave Bell

        Now that is stupid.

        The Leica M9 (18 megapixels, 24mmx36mm sensor area) uses sensors made by that division.

        So does my rather cheap compact camera.

        They sold off the future of the company.

  16. Andrew Garrard

    Actually, a little harsh

    I'm grateful that Kodak kept making film so long; I've still got some in my fridge, although I admit that my film shooting these days is more usually with Fuji or Ilford products; I may regret their troubles more when I eventually get a 5x4.

    There's no doubt that the film market shrank radically the moment cameras went digital; despite my first paragraph, I do most of my shooting with a DSLR, and that's not going to change (except, with small probability any time soon, if mirror boxes go the way of the dodo). I actually started with DSLRs, unless a Polaroid camera I had in primary school counts, and added film to my repertoire.

    I can't imagine Kodak not seeing it coming, but the question is what they could do about it. According to dpreview, Kodak have made 144 digital camera models, some of which are still current. For a company which had more to do with chemicals than optics, electronics or consumer goods (at least in recent years), that's not a bad effort - but it's not surprising that Canon is the company most visible in the desirable compact and DSLR space and that Sony's electronics combined with Nikon and Pentax's camera design is taking much of the rest of the spotlight.

    With the premium products made by big names, Kodak - whose cameras have never exactly been the M3 or F-series of their generation - could only really try to compete at the cheap end, and I suspect they didn't have the manufacturing capacity to create small plastic boxes as cheaply as the bigger companies in China. Even if they did, that market must be feeling the squeeze now everyone owns camera phones. Other than "something else", I don't know what they should have done.

    Still, maybe I should get my hands on the DCS-14n that I want as a back-up to my D700 before the collectors start putting the prices through the roof.

    Oh, and to add to the history lesson in digital photography, Bryce Bayer (of the pattern) worked at Kodak. I wonder which name will live on longer?

    1. Volker Hett

      Don't bother with the DCS 14n, it's quite good in the studio with controlled lighting, but don't compare it to any DSLR after 2002. A friend of mine got one to replace his F90x and F100 film bodies because then the D100 wasn't good enough for a studio photographer working for glossy magazines. The D200 was, and the D300 even more, now he's shooting D700 and D3. He still has a F90x and the DCS 14 in a cabinet, just for memories :)

      1. Andrew Garrard

        Just for clarity...

        ...and to make sure I'm bidding against more people the next time a DCS-14n appears on ebay:

        Kodak deserve a bit of credit for getting a DSLR to 14MP sometime before most of the competition, but there's no doubt that it doesn't handle especially well and it's no low-light camera. My interests in it are only as a back-up to my D700, and since the current back-up is an F5 it's not actually going to be worse. The alternative is, obviously, to go crop sensor (or be able to afford another D700 derivative) but that means carrying more lenses to make sure I cover the field of view range I've decided I want on any given shoot.

        Kodak obviously suffered from basing their DSLR strategy on adapted film bodies from (mostly) Nikon - the moment Nikon brought out the D1, limited though it was, there was always going to be a conflict of interest.

  17. Darryl
    Facepalm

    They DID buy their way into digital photography

    They bought Chinon back in '04, then proceeded to screw that up.

    I think they thought digital was just going to be a passing fad

  18. Steven Jones

    The way of the world

    It's a huge deal to radically change the basic technology of any major entrenched company in note much more than a decade. It's especially difficult when you run straight into the established strengths of the type of consumer-based electronics specialists based in Asia. If people want to see how difficult such transitions are, I invite them to examine how many of the top 100 US companies (by capitalisation) at the start of the 20th century are still there a little over a century later. There are very few.

    Inicidentally, it's not quite true that Kodak were never a camera company. Whilst there cameras were always aimed at promoting their film business, it has to be noted that the Box Brownie was absolutely at the forefront of popularising photography.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As inevitable as Greek tragedy

    To everything else said here I would add - having been on the inside myself - a bad case of the Microsofts, as in "we don't need standards, we are the standard". Ignored JPEG in favor of in-house formats, ignored standard optical disks in favor of their own size, etc. etc.

    Add pernicious bureaucracy, hostile old guard mgmt etc.

    Then a suicidal attempt to take on companies like HP and Canon at their own game, when the opposition was several times larger than them. And ironically to do it with an ex-HPer at the helm. <Insert conspiracy theory here>

    1. DanceMan
      Boffin

      "we don't need standards, we are the standard"

      It was a long established habit at Kodak. They took 120 and 116 roll film, put a smaller keyed hole in the ends of the metal spool, called them 620 and 616, and had their box and folding cameras (up through the 1940's) take those sizes. And probably patented the spool to prevent other film manufacturers from making them. In those times Kodak were a major part of the consumer camera market.

  20. banjomike
    Meh

    You make Casio sound lucky

    Casio had a long history, back to the 50's, of coming up with brilliant innovation and really clever bits of kit. I bought a Casio programmable calculator in 1977 that is still on my desk being used daily. Their digital cameras were neat and clever and were the first to include a screen to view the shot.

    1. Ilgaz

      They still invent

      Just check their watches, every model even including the traditional Edifice have some kind of unique thing. Even the legendary cheap quartz models went to insane levels of power and battery tech that they have 7! Years of battery life now.

      1. banjomike
        Thumb Up

        Yay battery life

        the calculator I bought in 77 was the FX-502. I am on my 4th set of batteries in 34 years.

  21. Mage Silver badge
    Flame

    They blew it long ago

    Photo CDs were and are superior to Picture CDs: Priced out of the market by Kodak.

    1992!

    The Portfolio CD was a great Kodak Innovation. But no-one could afford the software to author them. Priced out of the market by Kodak.

    1993? Wikipedia doesn't even know about them. I have a demo :(

    "The page "Portfolio CD" does not exist."

    Picture CD quality was poor. We bought our own consumer scanner and made better discs.

    Kodak knew this was coming in 1985!

    The DLP was invented in Texas Instruments in 1987

    This was the last wake up call for making millions doing "prints" for each Cinema Release

    "On February 2, 2000, Philippe Binant, technical manager of Digital Cinema Project at Gaumont in France, realized the first digital cinema projection in Europe[7] with the DLP CINEMA technology developed by Texas Instruments."

    Next was dedicated Cinema HD satellites and GPS locked, registered Cinema HD satellite Receivers to drive the Cinema DLP

    By 2005 it was obvious phones would kill standalone snapshot cameras, Film, Instant or Digital.

    I have an OM10. I now use a small Fuji better than many camera phones and borrow a "Serious" digital camera for serious work.

    Kodak even produced Digital Cameras. But that was really the wrong market as they where never a high end camera maker, and only those would eventually survive outside phone cameras.

    So what should they have done? Maybe competed with Adobe undercutting them to get market with Photo editing and also Authoring tools for PhotoCD, Portfolio CD and later VCD, DVD, BD.

    Produced Digital Projectors and video cameras (with still resolution good enough to beat camera phones), eventually HD, licensing DLP. etc.

    Maybe Kodak were just doomed. Like Typewriter makers. Brother has managed to stay in Inkjet market. But Kodak inkjets had nothing to recommend them in a crowded market.

    Anything they had that could have been the "answer" they either did it badly, too low end, or priced themselves out of it.

    Icon

    But "Kodak safety film" doesn't burn.

    It's significant that in the bargain store the Kodak batteries are beside the inferior Polariod AA cells that are under weight due to two big empty plastic bungs in the case.

    1. Ilgaz

      Colour management

      They could focus on consumer color management so people wouldn't live without seeing a single true color on their monitors, devices.

      Even super old fashion Pantone does consumer stuff now but they have to rely on outside. E.g. there isn't Huey on mobile.

  22. Volker Hett

    Besides the JPEGs

    there is a market for good printing materials and Kodak has a name there. 10 years ago I could have never imagined buying photographic materials at Epson or HP. With my first capable digital Cameras, a Canon Powershot G1 and an EOS D30, I had most of my pictures printed on Kodak paper and I looked for labs using Kodak paper, I didn't want anything less.

    And then came the Fuji Minilabs operated by real photo lab technicians and even if they used Fuji paper, the results where what I wanted.

    The lab I ended up at could print from digital and film up to 6x9, all on Fuji paper.

    Kodak was nearly out. Nearly because I was tempted by the Kodak digital Back for my Contax 645 and/or a Canon EOS mount version of the DCS14. When they came up with the Sigma made DCS pro SLR c I was seriously underwhelmed and when Canon came with the 5D Kodak was history for me.

    A Minilab like the Fuji ones and a capable 135 digital SLR could have saved them. Add paper and ink in Kodak quality for other printers, the big Epsons and Canons used by many photographers as well as the smaller ones for the hobbyists, could have saved them.

    Scaling back film production to satisfy a smaller but dedicated enthusiast market would have been the icing on the cake.

  23. Dan Paul
    Mushroom

    This is what happens when you hire Ex-HP employees to be your CEO

    For the last 20 years, I sold instrumentation and controls to Kodak. The bottom dropped out in 2006 when they sold film manufacturing technology to the Chinese. Then they spent million knocking down buildings at Kodak Park so they could pay less taxes, laid off most of their "brain trust", all in the name of "keeping the shareholders happy." Familiar words from Perez who emulated the work practices of Carly "Slash & Burn" Fiorina at HP whom he worked with.

    The Engineering Department at Kodak was second to none, Their R&D Department was truly amazing and what they ought to do now is fire all upper level management and use the collective intelligence of their current and former technical employees and remaining patent portfolio to reform as a think tank/engineering firm just to keep the company from turning into another "Polaroid" shadow of it's former self.

    Did you know that Kodak was deeply involved in the early engineering of the miniature thin film chromatography that became the diabetes glucose test strip? That technology should have brought billions but "it wasn't related to the core film manufacturing business" so they sold it off.

    Did you know that Kodak was the collective mind behind the surveillance cameras and optics during WWII, Korean War, Cold War and made the cameras that went into the U2 Spyplane? That "Hawkeye" plant unit was also sold off to keep the shareholders happy.

    This is a lesson to employees AND shareholders. Slash and burn CEO's are the death knell of any company that hires them. There SHOULD have been mass revolt when they hired this creep. But noooo... Greedy shareholders and CEO's come before employees, common sense, company heritage, history, American ingenuity, etc.

    Now Rochester, New York is a ghost town when it used to have the highest paid, most educated workers in Upstate NY. With Kodak gone, there are hundreds of Technology vendors and support companies that will also be gone.

    Antonio Perez should be forever forced to drink the containment well water from the volatile organic chemicals and heavy metals that have seeped into the ground on it's property for the last hundred years. Yeah, those chemicals that the now bankrupt Kodak will make the duty of the US EPA Superfund and NYS DEC to clean up and foist the cost off on the taxpayer.

  24. Grease Monkey

    It worries me that they made some of the best pro level sensors in digital photography and they still couldn't make a profit.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    or another theory..

    is that the online media have spotted Kodak in trouble a while back and decided they are to be the company they all push into Chapter 11 to prove their "don't fuck with us, we can screw you up" power.

    I have several Kodak products and they are actually very good and competively priced, in particular my waterproof ZX-5 sports camera which does 720p 60FPS and for £75 is a absolute bargain and unparalleled in that spec by all the other bigboys (Sony/Samsung etc).

    I'm not saying they havn't made bad decisions, and failed to keep up with times, but "news" like this is clearly nothing short of kicking a company when it's down and sinks to a new El-Reg low.

    1. Drewc (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: or another theory..

      Your theory is bonkers.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @Drewc

        Nice bit of understatement :-)

  26. Heff
    Unhappy

    good grief

    The crime here isn't just the legacy of the firm that's being pissed up the wall, the sadness of a passing brand that we've grown up with, that you can find stencilled on buildings, or the eventual sad shelving of quality hardware (cant get the parts) its the jobs. Kodak could have held onto its chemicals business and turned out first rate analog chemical film for enthusiasts : not a billion dollar earner, but a respectable top-tier product, and gone balls-deep into imaging, digital processing, and the like, and planted their 'anchor' in IP aquisitions just like every other oversized, inflexible tech company in existence.

    It didn't do those things, and now the 6 million dollar man gets to shrug and carry on living the life of riley while a company full of engineers in a field that's being relegated to history can look foward to what? a pinkslip because their CEO was incompetent and got paid anyway?

    I can only hope their retirement plans werent invested in the company. Poor bastards.

  27. PangolinOne
    Facepalm

    Sold off their healthcare arm...

    In 2007 the sold off their medical imaging arm (now re-branded Carestream Health) to Onex Corporation.

    With a revenue of $2.5 Billion and a strong presence in Dental imaging, radiology and picture archiving and communications systems, it seems that Kodak did the groundwork with an eye to diversifying then cashed in.

    A loss of focus has left them with only sepia tinted memories of greatness.

  28. Fuzz

    idiots

    Look at the UK box office top 10, you have 3 films shot on 35mm film, 3 shot on digital, 3 digital animations and 1 motion capture. All 3 of the films used Kodak film. Kodak's mistake is attempting to maintain their size. Film may not be the business it once was but Kodak still sell a huge percentage of it.

    I could see the film business being rolled off into a smaller company. Whilst I prefer Fuji for my colour reversal film since Kodak killed off kodachrome, my negatives are all shot on Kodak.

    The printer business can die, most people have no need to print at home. Photographic printing is cheaper and easier handled by a print shop.

  29. All names Taken

    Can't sue kodak for damages (pollution?) if it does not exist?

  30. redpanda

    CD player

    about 16 years ago Kodak came out with a walkman like device that was a portable music player but also allowed you to have your pics put onto disc rather than film, then you simply plugged it into your tv to watch the slide show, portable enough to take your holiday pics to your friends house, listening to music through the headphones on the way, then plug it into their tv so as to bore them to death. what a great idea you would think. the catch? the photo disc cost you then about AU $80.00, way too expensive back then and that is what killed it I think.

  31. multipharious

    This story just makes me sad

    I know the ultra slow train crash sort of chain of events. I can point the finger at this or that like a good little management consultant. But in the end, Kodak was photography. So when they got their asses handed to them by Fuji and continued to screw up to this point when I am tapping at a keyboard in my early 40s it just makes me sad.

  32. techmind

    The Fuji minilab machines are absolutely superb - the print-making machine is phenomenal in the image-quality and precision (their minilab film-scanner is pretty poor by comparison, and aliasses film-grain - but probably didn't matter too much as it was basically legacy-support). Kodak got into the seemingly got into the digital minilab market late, with a joint-venture product, that gave lousy prints (from a multi-exposure LCD shutter mask) compared to Fuji's precision laser scanner technology. Pity.

    I did work-experience at Kodak/Wealdstone R&D in 1990 - the stuff they were doing then with HDTV telecine (well ahead of its time) and digital image enhancement (mostly contrast-management from what I remember) was impressive... but perhaps too far ahead of its time in the market.

    I still like/d Kodak professional colour negative films... but haven't bought much recently as I've gone digital (albeit a relatively late-adopter).

    I'll understand why they failed, but still be sorry to see them go.

  33. Dr Trevor Marshall

    Sigh. I have a collection of good Kodak Digitals..

    I own the following Kodak digital cameras. All were class-leading in their day. The V1253 was one of the first point and shoots which actually took decent 720p movies...

    C875 - still my reference when evaluating landscape color balance

    V1253 - first P&S with 720p and stereo mics

    V1073 - still one of the best low-light movie P&S cameras

    Z1012 IS superzoom 12X with HD movie capture

    I don't use them much anymore, my LX5 tends to be in my pocket. But I can't pack the Kodaks away into the archives. Each was a wonderful digital camera in its day, and still does a decent job... It is amazing how such a huge company can absolutely fail at 'marketing 101'

  34. Paul RND*1000
    WTF?

    Chapter 11

    Uh, not trying to piss in the death-watch party punch here but you *do* all realize that Chapter 11 is what you do when you want to restructure your debts, rebuild and emerge as a slimmed-down, hopefully profitable company? Right?

    OTOH if they *don't* declare Chapter 11 soon they're in denial and you might want to ready the shovels; if they declare Chapter 7 the damn hole had better be ready.

    1. foxyshadis
      Pirate

      It's not unusual...

      ...for companies to start with Chapter 11, then never emerge and end up in 7 within a year. Now that they've sold of EVERY profitable or potentially profitable part of their company, they can only limp along for so long promising debt repayment.

    2. Ilgaz

      So

      How do you plan to sell printer and camera to the masses when TV stations and web shouting you are dead? Especially printer since it needs original consumable stuff. People buying their printers didn't buy to fill them with no name inks you know.

  35. Melanie Winiger

    This is what happens when you hire Ex-HP employees to be your CEO

    Good analysis on the current Kodak CEO and his "slash and burn" style.

  36. Martin
    Happy

    What a bozo?

    He was paid $5.7 million for doing a crap job.

    You are probably paid 1-2% of that for doing a good job.

    You're calling HIM a bozo?

  37. Jon Massey
    Unhappy

    Ektar's quite nice

    Surprising that they brought out a new colour print film so recently if they were up sh1t creek, it's pretty nice stuff too - bit more restrained colour than Fuji. Guess I should buy a few bricks of it for the freezer...

  38. e-smith
    FAIL

    Been a long time coming

    I've dealt with Kodak as a photo and commercial user since 1973 when I worked at a photo store in HS. They have always had good products - never great - and lousy management. You can get away with a lot of bad decisions with the profits they had up through the mid 90's and still survive. They owned the supply business in consumer, commercial photo, commercial printing and medical for decades. Lived like arrogant kings. Tossed them from my first management job when they reformulated litho film and chemistry fro the first round of clean water rules. Old stuff was fantastic, new stuff was terrible but they pushed it out anyway due to the new rules. They've been following the same rule book ever since.

    I'm just surprised it took this long for all the stupidity to catch up with them.

  39. jake Silver badge

    Colo(u)r vs B&W ...

    I sold off all my colo(u)r film processing kit in mid 2002 ... The Wife had bought me a Nikon D1X about a year earlier, and I could see where the wind was blowing. I had my entire setup up for sale in photog circles within weeks of getting the D1X. Hopefully the guy in Tasmania is still happy with the two pallet-loads of gear he purchased & had shipped to him from California.

    On the other hand, I still do B&W film (large & small format[1]), and still have a home darkroom. The nieces & nephews are having fun learning about an art form that none of their school mates even know exists. Makes for top marks science fair projects ;-)

    [1] I can also handle colo(u)r up to 26x40 inches (CMYK, mostly for printing plate making).

  40. hugo tyson
    FAIL

    Cheap batteries

    Yeah, Kodak name seems today to only exist on cheap batteries, and presumably flash cards for cameras and other peripherals - ie. no added value at all, but you could see the sense when it was a name for things photographic.

    As for Fuji succeeding, remember Fuji is part of that whole Fuji Heavy Industries zaibatsu, which makes ships and cranes and trains through diggers and dozers and all Subarus down to nuts bolts motors chips and PCs. It was already multi capable and robust and massive, makes Kodak at its best look like a niche chemical co.

  41. Zog The Undeniable
    Facepalm

    The film business is, apparently, profitable

    Hopefully someone will buy it up and keep it going. The specialist market for black-and-white, at least, isn't going away anytime soon.

  42. roblightbody
    Big Brother

    I had a Kodak Camera in 2005 that was absolutely superb. It was cheap, easy to use and also had manual features unheard of on its rivals, that encouraged me to become far more skilled than i had been. It took superb photos that took my enthusiasm further. The only snag was when I came to replace it a few years later, I couldn't find a suitable model - and bought a Fuji instead...

    Inkjet photo-quality printers seem a perfect fit for their brand and traditions, have had good reviews, and break the mould by offering much lower cost per page than rivals have for years.

    There will always be a small, specialist market in film photography - Kodak should have a small, specialist, independent part to deal with this.

    It would be sad to see Kodak fail - the extremely strong brand alone is worth money. I think they just had too much excellent competition.

  43. Winkypop Silver badge
    Coat

    Maybe they should try Chapter 11

    And see what develops.

  44. TalesOfaFlaneur
    Pint

    Kodak film both profitable and exquisite

    I'm in my late 30's and a photographer. All of my important and personal work is captured on 120 and 135 film. Although I sometimes use Fuji Velvia (and to a much lesser extent Ilford Pan F +), my go-to films have always been Kodak for their consistency and character.

    By default, my Hexar AF is loaded with Plus-X and my Pentax 645 or the Rollei is loaded with Portra 400. (By the by, have you used the new Portra 400? Amazing, subtle, gives images with weight and substance - great latitude, too).

    When I'm having fun, the mix always includes Tri-X and Ektar 100 (though I'm not completely in love with Ektar's cool blue look). And I've been known to enjoy the (discontinued) EKTACHROME E100GS. And yes, I used Kodachrome, though mostly as a boy. None of my recent decent work used Kodachrome.

    I understand that Kodak's film division actually does make profit, particularly since it's been killing off different variants. Kodak take their research in motion picture film and then it trickles down into the still camera lines (e.g., the new Portra and Ektar).

    It does seem criminal that Kodak's management couldn't manage the decline of film into something like a boutique business rather than milking the film profits to invest in all manner of insane things. It reminds me a wee bit of Apple in the early 1990's.

    Must go and load my freezer up with Portra, Tri-X, Plus-X, Ektar and anything else I can find!

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I worked for a Kodak subsidiary in 1996, they had just closed development of Cineon their digital compositing package. It was the best software of its time and still has a focus and methodology that the current (Nuke) and previous (Shake) leading software can barely dream of. They also made the best film scanning machines (the Lightning) and apart from it being a little slow compared to current equivalents the quality of the images is the same as today.

    They owned the high ground and retreated because of the usual short-term shareholder-led pressures.

    1. Ilgaz

      Not in 35mm but

      Isn't the file format of that device/ software still a standard after all these years?

      They could be the most stupidly acting company ever, especially for doing nothing with their massive brand value in professional movie business. One can't understand how a company capable of most complex sensors and advanced color management isn't in digital cinema which they started.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    What I don't get...

    ...is that people here are pointing to things that happened ten or twenty years ago, and yelling, "This doomed them! It was all over in 1985 / 92 / 2000", and talking about how it was a string of decisions for decades that did it... and then going RAEG on the CEO who's been there for what, five years?

    Ok, that doesn't mean that a better guy (Allen Mullaly?) couldn't have done it, but to go on and on about how the die was cast and then blame the dude who showed up after the horse had left the barn is rather disingenuous.

    And, as some have mentioned, Kodak did a ton of work with digital stuff in the early days - notably making digital backs for Nikons.

    I always find the level of sheer venom here disappointing, and somehow surprising in spite of its regular appearance. If it failed, hate it because it was bad; if it succeeded, hate it because it doesn't deserve it...

  47. Frank Bough
    FAIL

    Utter Horseshit

    Kodak was and continues to be at the absolute forefront of digital imaging technology. If Kodak made a mistake with DI, it was by investing TOO MUCH in digital R&D rather than in product. Inkjet printing it exactly the kind of business Kodak should be in - it was their dye-sub printers that made digital printing a reality in the first place.

    Honestly, Bayer pattern CFA, Cineon, dye-sub printer, DPX, Spirit the list of Kodak innovations goes on and on and on.

    An idiotic srticle written by someone who knows nothing about DI.

  48. MrHorizontal
    FAIL

    It wasn't just predictable, but for Kodak it'd been relatively easy to resolve. They had so many options:

    Chemicals:

    Kodak has the means and resources to take on 3M and TDK easily. BASF and DuPont might be a bit more troublesome, but credible chemicals could've been possible if they thought beyond film.

    Digital Cameras:

    What makes a digital camera. A CCD, some flash memory a bit of chippery to process it all and a fat arsed lens. The CCD world is dominated by the Japanese like NEC, Casio, Sharp and the like. Even NEC would've been fishfood for Kodak. For flash memory a little bit of passive investment into Micron and making IMFT or something like that a 3-way JV between Intel, Micron and Kodak would have been easy. Some chippery? ARM is pretty adequate. Lenses? Carl Zeiss, Leica, all fishfood.

    Heck instead of making the constituent parts, Olympus is in a spot of bother too. Snap them up and have a ready-made credible camera business zomg! And what were Kodak doing when Japan was absolutely flatlined in the last 10-15 years with all the primary photographic competition coming out of there: Olympus, Canon, Nikon, Minolta all unable to get sufficient liquidity. Kodak cash rich... 1+2 = ?

    Printers:

    Xerox was in trouble. Snap up Xerox, get PARC and all of the wondrous patents that came out of there, and with a combined Kodak and Xerox, HP would've become the world's best bricklayer overnight.

    But no. Fail, fail more with a bit more epic McFail. Compared to others, even epic corporate failures like Olivetti seem well managed. It really beggars belief there is stupidity on this scale. Seriously, they probably revere Paris Hilton as a mind greater than Einstein.

    Truly unbelievable.

  49. Levente Szileszky
    Thumb Down

    Their inkjet & multi-function driver software is very nice...

    ...as I just learned recently when I installed it for a friend.

    Otherwise it's all very true - sad but true. Kodak's management completely f'd up everything, investors should sue the entire management.

    I still hope some takeover & a new, *competent* mgmt will resuscitate Kodak in one form or the other...

  50. Colemanisor

    Colmanisor

    That Antonio Perez is a real a$$hole charging so much to screw up a company, I'm applying for his job as I only charge $2miillion to destroy a company, saving Kodak $3 mill, bargain!

  51. AndGregor
    Thumb Down

    poor printers

    Haven't had the chance for the printer to physically break, every new software update breaks any chance of printing. Forget about scanning wirelessly..

    Have lost hours, good riddance..

  52. Captain Underpants

    @El Reg

    Any chance of a follow-up article, given the circumstances described at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16498261 and the substantial rise in Kodak stock valuation?
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