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Ten years ago, "the mobile web" might have been a reference to WAP. Nine years ago, when the iPhone arrived, mobile web was Edge: where you could get it and when you could afford it.

Companies like RIM and Nokia had smartphones. The people running them were smart. Their engineering was good. It had to be because wireless access to the internet wasn't ubiquitous. Suddenly the companies faced the first mover disadvantage.

It's difficult to imagine how revolutionary the technology of Kodachrome was. It utterly disrupted consumer photography and photojournalism and professional photography. The fact that Kodak was experimenting with digital photography in the 1970's shows how out front they were and they were right to treat it as a technology that wouldn't be viable for more than two decades...and one that nobody has figured out how to monitize except via the sale of hardware.

There's probably no plausible alternate universe where Kodak managed to produce sustainable profit from processing and storing digital images or selling media or anything related to their core business. Digital photography moved image production out of retail channels. I could text an image to ten of my relatives without a trip to Walgreens for one hour processing, and $0.08 3x5 prints in an hour available in the mid 1990's was a pretty amazing innovation versus the four or five days and significantly higher prices that were typical in the 70's and 80's.

Kodak wasn't a company standing still. It just didn't have a good way to make money from digital imagery: HP had them beat in the printer ink as liquid gold market and the camera manufacturers weren't going anywhere: optics are still bounded by the physics of optics.

Circling back, I think it wasn't so much people sitting around and thinking "we're Kodak" as it was the fact that Kodak wasn't Nokia and hence didn't have a history of selling off it's mainline business and moving into a new industry. Not that as a publicly traded company in the US that would have ever really been a viable option. Quarter by quarter, Kodak was obligated to maximize stockholder value for the short rather than long term.

Companies become obsolescent. Consider Sun.




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