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I lived in Rochester, NY and got a 20 hr/week job interning at Kodak in the slide film research department during HS in 1999-2000.

I remember on one occasion my boss, a mid-level executive (head of new slide film research? something like that) asked me what I thought about digital cameras, I think both because I was young and seen as "the computer guy". I didn't own one but I'd read about them a decent amount. I told him I understood they were expensive/low-quality at the moment but the advantage of ditching film and using ever-improving digital tech still seemed huge. I don't remember his exact words, but he couldn't really see the appeal or promise.

The 7-story building I worked in is just a mound of grass last I looked. I have thought from time to time just about the institutional inertia that fights against seeing what's going on and adapting. There were just tens of thousands of people with very highly specialized skills around film and chemicals and processing and dark rooms and paper and so many things most of which simply aren't relevant to a digital photography world.

Now, granted, other film/pre-digital camera companies did a far better job making the jump. I'd argue maybe in part again that Kodak seeing itself as emotionally wed to film while other companies saw themselves moreso as camera/photo companies. That Fuji has been able to survive is more surprising to me than Canon/Nikon/Olympus/etc.




I had never really put much thought into it, but you're totally right- the expectation was that a chemical company (essentially) would transform itself into a Hardware & software manufacturer. That's a might, mighty leap. That Fuji was actually able to do it is even more impressive.

I worked for a company that did some work for Kodak - both directly and indirectly - around some of their software initiatives & partnerships with mobile manufacturers. They were not pretty or well-run projects, to be sure.


Certainly Kodak did a lot of things wrong but there's a common meme straight out of Marketing Myopia [1] that, had they only thought of themselves as a photography company rather than a film company, all would have been well. This is basically nonsense.

Even had Kodak been more aggressive about cannibalizing its film sales with digital, it's unclear how much of its expertise and competitive advantage would have carried over. In any case, it wouldn't have nearly replaced the film consumables business in terms of revenue and profit.

Fujifilm did do better--mostly, current camera line notwithstanding--by branching out into other areas of chemistry. Good read from The Economist here [2] but Fujifilm had tough times too and I believe that they were also significantly smaller.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marketing_myopia

[2] http://www.economist.com/node/21542796?fsrc=scn/tw/te/ar/the...

[Second link fixed.]


I always wondered, if you're an executive with perfect foresight and your analysis shows that you could either cling to your legacy technology and make a billion dollars for 10 years and then zero dollars after that as the inevitable disruption happened or go all in on self-disruption and make 100 million dollars until the end of time, which would really be the better choice?

Given that disrupting yourself would have a 100 year payoff period, it seems far better to try and squash any attempts at change, both internally and externally until progress becomes inevitable. Look at the music industry for example, even a few extra years of CD dominance would exceed the profits of all digital music sales ever.

Of course, if you go this route, your incentive is to play clueless and out of touch since even giving credence to the disruptive idea hastens it's arrival. I'm sure there were a lot of executives who were genuinely clueless but this at least shows how otherwise intelligent executives would have a strong incentive to act clueless.


Well, some forward looking companies trying to avoid being disrupted now really invest in or set up completely separate subsidiaries to explore this new areas of growth. They even go so far as to have completely different management and buildings.

The upside to this is there's no existing bias in management decisions for the new company. Instead, it offers them a potential insider look, and understanding of this new technology..and when the time comes for a pivot, they have something solid to build on.


Intel is next.

They're making billions on big, complex, expansive CPUs. Someone like ARM /will/ replace them, at a much smaller dollar volume.


I am not so sure, mainly because a lot of Intel's advantage comes from its process technology. The ARM instruction set might well take over, but you still need someone to make them.

Even at the current 14/16nm nodes, Intel's process is significantly smaller than TSMC or Samsung's [1]. I suspect we will see consolidation (a la GloFo/Samsung) and Intel branching out into being a foundry, but with building 10nm++ fabs running into the billions of dollars, I don't see Intel going anywhere any time soon.

[1]: http://newstechnow.com/plans-launch-14nm-finfet-technology-c...


> The ARM instruction set might well take over

looks around himself

It hasn't already?


The Windows world (and therefore most corporate offices) are very much dependent on the x86-64 architecture. The ecosystem will need to switch to web or (ARM) apps for Intel to die.

My eye doctor's office is switching to Android tablets, so maybe it's possible.


I'm not sure if you've looked into Fuji's digital camera offerings as of late, but their doing much better there IMO than Canon/Nikon. Fuji has been innovating in sensor tech with their X-Trans sensor and their X series mirror-less cameras are very very well liked. Not only are the bodies innovative control-wise, they've hearkened back to older manual dial style cameras that are really simple to use, but the lenses are of top-notch quality.


I have. I have an X-E1 in front of me as we speak and I use it more than my Canon full-frame system. It's just a lot more practical for most travel. And reminds me a lot of the rangefinders I used for years.

That said they're relatively niche.


I love my X-Pro, and I loved Fuji film before it, but remember Fuji has never been under the anti-trust concerns Kodak has, and that forced them to divest the film processing and professional camera arms.


I wish I had saved the article but I remember reading somewhere (and just paraphrasing here) that the team that works on the iPhone make it good enough so you'll use your iPad (tablet) less, then the iPad team makes it so good you'll use your MacBook less, and so on. I think it's great forward thinking to be always trying to put one of your largest product lines out of business as a way to constantly innovate. In so doing, you hopefully have less chances of having to lay off tens of thousands of people because you tried hard to stay ahead of the curve.


Unlike Apple, Kodak was caught in a very hard place. With film they would collect revenue for every picture taken, through the film itself, developing, and printing. With digital you could make money on the cameras themselves, but your per-picture revenue opportunities were limited - this was the great attraction of digital. It's not the same as Apple replacing devices one-for-one.


Apple seems to have copied that model somewhat, make 30% on everything that's sold for iOS.

I guess they knew that eventually everyone would have a good enough iOS device and they'd have to reduce the cost of the device to compete.


> With digital you could make money on the cameras themselves

You could, but you rarely do. The profit margin on the consumer-level DSLRs is really low. They make money from the stuff around it.


Tell that to the people who make the inks for my Epson inkjet printer.

Inkjets can do great prints of photos, but only if you pay for the paper and ink.


Remember, Kodak was collecting for every picture. So few pictures get printed today, the cost of ink is literally a drop in the bucket.


Maybe they should have obliterated their brand and gone into other chemical research and manufacturing.


Kodak actually sold off their chemical subsidiary way back when before they started declining. Using expertise in emulsions etc. is essentially what Fujifilm did but as I said elsewhere they still had hard times and I think we're quite a bit smaller.


You failed to paste your second link correctly.


More than half a decade before OPs internship began, Kodak had already spun off a chemical company thats fairly successful to this day.

I think a good analogy would be HP. Legendary lab test equipment up till 1980 or something. Spin off the legendary lab test equipment division into a new company thats successful to this day AFAIK although they rename / rebrand every five years. The remainder tries to coast by selling imported Chinese stuff with its famous name rebranding the cheap import, but the writings on the wall as it crashes.

So for both examples, if your core competency is XYZ and you spin off your healthy XYZ division and don't really have a post spinoff plan, the empty dehydrated husk that remains will wither away pretty quickly.

Essentially you've got what banks call the good bank / bad bank strategy where you split and one fails and the productive part remains. For whatever reason companies like HP and Kodak throw the historical branding into the "bad company" side. But the "good company" sides are healthy and in business to this day.


Fuji made some excellent early digital cameras. So well built and using very little power. I took one into my workshop and it even survived there during several projects (and that's a pretty bad environment for a camera).

I'm not surprised they survived, they caught on early and made good gear.

As opposed to Canon cameras that give cryptic errors about lenses 3 days after the warranty expires, HP cameras that used a set of batteries every 60 shots or so and so on.

It's a pity that Asahi/Pentax didn't survive as an independent.


Pentax lives on today under Ricoh, and Ricoh is taking good care of it by making new camera bodies and lenses under the Pentax name.


Pentax is also the only brand to make affordable medium format digital cameras.


Their new full frame 35mm camera (the K-1) is also surprisingly affordable ($1,800). Full frame camera form Nikon/Canon with similar features start at around $3,000.


I have a K50. It's weather sealed and with two weather sealed kit lenses. It was less than $500. It works with any old K-mount lens from the last 40+ years and adds image stabilization because Pentax moves the sensor to stabilize the image.


So far Ricoh seems to be doing a great job with Pentax -- the newest cameras, the K-1 and K-70 are both fantastic.


Sometimes I think nostalgically about my DOS 16 bit programming skills - all quite useless today. It's hard to give that up.


Retro indie games are making a comeback.


Well, the Digital Mars C/C++ compiler still supports DOS programming (I just can't seem to let that go!)


Good to know!

I thought that OpenWatcom was the only one remaining to support DOS (and it appears to have been stagnant for a couple of years)...

(Not that I've done much with DOS - I did write a ~10-20 line program in C to set the serial port to specific settings, but that was all I've done on DOS.)


Can I write DOS code in D?


Sorry, no. D has a bit much overhead for the 16 bit world. C++ does, too, which is why to C++ for 16 bits has exception handling and RTTI removed.




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