It’s always sad when a grand old company like Eastman Kodak fails. I spent the first 25 years of my career using the unquestionably best photographic products in the world. Kodak film and papers were the best products money could buy, and Nikon had no rivals. Unfortunately, Kodak, like some other venerable companies (U.S. car companies GM, Ford etc.) and a Japanese company called Nikon, forgot how to compete. They believed they could rest on their well-earned laurels and that no one would ever use their rivals. Kodak in particular disregarded the power of the professional user, saying that we only accounted for 5 percent of sales. That’s like Nike saying that the NBA only accounts for 1 percent of their sales, so they can ignore Michael Jordan. People do follow the pros, even if they are buying an amateur version of the product. My father always said, “all you have in business is lead time.” All of these companies gave up their lead time and let their rivals close in and then eventually pass them. General Motors and Ford, after 30 years, are finally starting to compete with Japan again, and Nikon has only recently started making worthy professional cameras to close the gap that they had given Canon. As for Kodak, it gave its innovative leadership away to Fuji and that, combined with the company’s inability to transition to digital, created the death spiral that culminated into last week’s bankruptcy.
It saddens me that this has come to pass. I loved Kodak and was proud to use their products. I believe, and this is only my opinion, that the arrogance of “Too Big to Fail” is what leads to this conclusion.