It seems almost unthinkable, but it very well could happen: the Wall Street Journal reports Wednesday that Kodak is teetering dangerously close to the edge of financial ruin, with bankruptcy a real possibility if it cannot sell of a chunk of its patent portfolio in short order. Above and beyond that, it appears the company needs about $1 billion to stay afloat according to reports.
The thought of a world without Kodak is almost incomprehensible to me, but the company dug its own grave. While we think of the Kodachrome (sorry for the Paul Simon reference in this post’s title) and the camera, Kodak’s real bread and butter was film. The company’s product was not only used in its own cameras but in its competitors, too.
Kodak became synonymous with quality and its market share showed it. But as the digital camera came along — an era it helped to usher in itself back in 1975 — the need for film decreased.
This killed the company’s nearly eight decade long core business and accelerated the company’s decline. Since June 2007 the company’s stock has lost 98.5 percent of its value. So what does this storied company do? It’s not clear. Kodak’s printer business has not shown much promise, and its foray into digital cameras hasn’t saved it either.
Yes, Kodak probably has attractive patents. But the sale of these patents do not address the changes in the marketplace that Kodak likely will not be able to adjust to in short order. It is a short term fix to a long term problem. Either way, Kodak’s not the only company to fail to change with the times. Fellow film company Polaroid has been through bankruptcy twice now: Borders was forced to liquidate itself as consumers turned to online competitors like Amazon.
It may just be a fact of the digital age that storied brands like Kodak may be destined for the deadpool, or into the arms of more modern technology conglomerates. That said, it’s not any less sad to see it happen.