Like a silent movie star who never quite made the transition to talkies, the once venerable Eastman Kodak company could fade from the picture. Kodak is reportedly on the verge of filing for bankruptcy, according to the Wall Street Journal.
While a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing doesn’t necessarily indicate the impending death of a company (many companies have successful emerged from bankruptcy), it’s certainly an indication that the company is in serious financial trouble. In Kodak’s case, the filing could pave the way for court supervised auction of some of its patents. Kodak has reportedly tried to raise much needed cash by selling patents on its own.
As someone who has owned Kodak cameras ranging from a Brownie Hawkeye when I was a kid to one of the newer Easyshare digital cameras I purchased just a couple of years ago, I guess I could say that I’m a long time fan of the company.
Death of supply business
There was also a time when I purchased a lot of Kodak film and developing services. As a kid I even bought flashbulbs from Kodak. But the glory days of Kodak’s supply business are long passed. When people buy a Kodak digital camera, they have little reason to return for additional supplies. Sure Kodak sells paper and even printers and that highly profitable printer ink, but — despite some valiant efforts and a pledge to turn inkjet sales into a profitable business, — they haven’t been able to make a serious dent in that market.
Not keeping up
Kodak has had some success with its digital cameras where it was an early market leader, but it hasn’t kept up with competition from Canon and Nikonor even Sony. Also, Kodak’s main strength is in the lower-end point and shoot cameras and — as anyone who owns an iPhone 4s or a top-of-the-line Android phone knows, the role of low-end stand alone digital cameras is diminishing rapidly. The photo quality of my iPhone 4s, while not quite as good as that of a $99 point and shoot camera — is good enough. If I’m going to bother carrying around a dedicated camera, it had better be one with an excellent lens and a high-end sensor and for those cameras, I’m more likely to turn to Canon or Nikon.
Still, as someone who has fond memories of Kodak products, I’m and anxious to see what develops.
This post also appears on Forbes.com.