Thursday, January 19, 2012

Could Kodak's Bankruptcy Have Been Prevented

It happens more times than not, industrial or technological change impacts an industry, opening doors for some and bringing others at the top of the hill to the bottom. Kodak, once a leader in the film and photography world, declared Chapter 11 today. Under the law, they get to wipe away some debt, restructure, and try to emerge leaner, meaner, faster, and smarter. But can the brand name, so tied to old technology and print material, change its brand perception to be seen as a future digital print leader?

So what are those plans? CEO Antonio M. Perez "said in a video statement on Kodak's website that the company has four objectives while in Chapter 11 -- obtaining the financing to reassure its employees, customers and other stakeholders that the company will stay in business; enabling it to pursue patent infringement claims against major companies including Apple Inc.; adjusting its "legacy costs" to a fairer level; and driving growth in the printing businesses Perez has declared are its future." So in English that means spend vast sums of lawyer fees to tie the courts up for years in patent disputes that they may or may not win, renegotiate pension payments, and continue onward in its printing business. Not so impressive.

Can Kodak find a new space to own? Between less documents being printed and more devices like smartphones able to take quality pictures, what does Kodak think it wants to be? Is it printers to rival HP, Canon, and others, or digital cameras that do more than a low priced Nikon, iPhone or Android device? Or is it an online platform to store pictures , create albums, and share like Flixter, Snapfish, and Shutterfly? Will they be consumer focused or will they pursue more commercial or industrial applications? It seems that while Kodak was trying to defend its core business, the world, the technology, and the consumer needs have shifted away.

And mind you, this has been going on for years. What has been Kodak been doing to remain a leader? Competition in the photography space has only gotten more intense as the world became digital. More vision will be needed by Kodak to rise from the ashes and emerge a leader again.