Kodak Stupidity Is Never Ending March 31 2010, 0 Comments

It is no secret that I am a long time admirer of George Eastman. His meager beginnings in Western New York were no indication of the vast empire he would build. Eastman Kodak once led the world in bringing photography to the masses. Eastman was an inventor, philanthropist, a visionary. But his company has been destroyed by a history of sustained arrogance by senior management including, but not limited to, its CEO’s, a complete lack of regard for Eastman and the company’s intended purpose.

Some many years ago, I hired a pilot to fly me over the University of Rochester, one of George Eastman’s philanthropic endeavors, for an ariel shoot. I asked the pilot if flying had always been his line of work. He said that it had since he was let go from Kodak. The rest of the story goes like this…As a part of a special project team at Kodak, he and others were asked by senior management to investigate the future of digital imaging. The project team was to make recommendations to the company as to whether or not Kodak should take digital imaging seriously.

After months of research, the project team made a strong case for pursuing digital technology vigorously. (Little did they know that the ground work had been done some twenty years ago!) The team believed that Kodak could once again be the world leader in professional and consumer photography. However, in usual Kodak style, the recommendations were scoffed at, the project team dismantled. Layoffs followed.

This month in PDN magazine on page 92, a small but poignant article reveals that Kodak created the first digital camera in 1975 and had secured the patent in 1978. Stuffed away somewhere and disregarded, Kodak did not launch a digital camera to the masses until 1995. Digital? Just a passing trend Eastman Kodak? Your stupidity is only superseded by your arrogance. Who is the leader in digital photography? Oh, that would be Canon. And just so you know, Canon really is the best.

George, your were a brilliant business man but a dreamer just the same. You would have seen digital coming a mile away. Perhaps your work was not done. Perhaps you should have waited.