In August, the photographic giant Kodak announced that it was abandoning the photography business, exiting the consumer film market completely. Combined with the end of its consumer printer business and desire to sell off its document image scanning branch, this means the end of Kodak’s presence in the world of digital photography. The move out of “personalized imaging” and “document imaging” as Kodak’s CEO Antonio Perez describes it, will allow the company to focus on the branches that market to business and commercial interests, where recent financial success and strength has been more promising.
The one-time photo giant, who filed for bankruptcy in January of this year, also announced that its decision to stop production of consumer inkjet printers will lead to the elimination of more than 200 jobs above initial layoff estimates. Of course, this move is only the most recent in a series of drastic changes in its attempt to stop the bleeding and free itself by 2012 of the court protection that resulted from bankruptcy. It has already made many attempts to sell flagging assets or simply cease production, including giving digital cameras, pocket video cameras, and digital picture frames the axe, as well as selling its digital photography and online photo service, Kodak Gallery, to Shutterfly.
In other words, it is making an effort to completely divest itself of any and all assets and branches relating to film and digital photography and imaging for individual consumers. It will continue to sell ink for its printers, which it aims to stop producing within the next 12 months. Its core business will then be focused on supplying industrial grade film for aerial photography and motion pictures, for example, as well as on printing for packaging. Kodak has gone through some drastic changes as evidenced by reducing its workforce from a high of 150,000 workers in 1988 to about 13,000 by 2013, with the most recent cut helping the ailing company save more than $340 million a year.
With Kodak’s recent bankruptcy and years of slow decline, the most recent spate of cuts and sell-offs isn’t much of a surprise. It has been struggling for over a decade, beginning when digital photography started to displace film photography with the masses in the early 2000s. Despite efforts to adapt, the company that put cameras in the hands of millions for the first time in the 20th Century and developed the first true point-and-shoot couldn’t keep up with competition coming out of Japan. Repeated efforts to stem the bleeding have failed, and it has been hemorrhaging cash even as it attempted to sell off branches that nobody seems to want at anything near the asking price.
But that’s a small consolation for those who still rely on Kodak cameras and film, or who use Kodak photo-printing kiosks to print their digital photos, or worse yet, if you have a Kodak digital camera and hope to continue buying accessories and parts for it. But as a large portion of consumer digital photography activity shifts away from cameras, and especially from point and shoot cameras towards the extremes, it makes sense that Kodak struggles more and more to remain relevant. When most people are either using their smart phones or tablets for casual photos, or bigger, better cameras for anything mildly serious, the market for size-efficient cameras that don’t do anything else is shrinking, and another old photographic dinosaur is leaving the market as a result.