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[OM] Re: Camera market and Kodak

Subject: [OM] Re: Camera market and Kodak
From: "John A. Lind" <jalind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 21 Apr 2005 22:41:28 -0500
At 08:36 PM 4/21/2005, Jeff Keller wrote:

>I guess I never paid enough attention ... I would have thought VHS 
>camcorders would have eaten heavily into film sales, but nobody says 
>anything about that.

Camcorders have been perceived as just that . . . a significantly better 
replacement for the 8mm home movie . . . which never had a sizeable 
market.  There are a host of reasons for the success of the camcorder with 
consumers (versus quite mediocre acceptance of 8mm and super-8mm cinema) . 
. . ability to playback immediately on the Living Room Cyclops with near 
zero setup likely being one of the biggest of them.  I don't know of anyone 
who used them routinely for still photographs although one could extract a 
still image from them (if that's what you were hinting at).

>If Kodak missed an opportunity it was missing ink jet printers. It fits 
>their previous model of selling consumables rather than the equipment. If 
>they had jumped into first place there, the shift to digital cameras may 
>not have been as important.

First . . .
Kodak has made some good lab equipment . . . but that is a very, very small 
segment of their revenue stream in spite of comparatively enormous capital 
costs per machine.  It's not as if all their equipment has been mediocre as 
with the bulk of their consumer still cameras.

I do believe you hit on it . . . their real products have been consumable 
image recording products and everything else has been created to support 
them . . . starting with the Eastman dry plates and moving into their 
single biggest creative innovation . . . practical roll film . . . much of 
the earliest product being designed to easily replace the dry plates in 
cameras that used them.  The huge success of the original Kodak [camera] 
was a result of there being nothing else on the market for the 
consumer.  They've tried to repeat that with "Model T" Everyman cameras and 
keep missing the point that there's been stiff competition for the camera 
segment ever since.  There are numerous consumables associated with 
digital.  I believe this is where Kodak missed the boat with the emerging 
digital market and has been trying to catch up ever since.  They are 
suffering what the Swiss mechanical watchmakers did when quartz watches 
stormed the market from the Japanese (note that mechanical watches have 
survived and not just Rolex, Omega, Breitling, etc., there are decent 
inexpensive consumer ones at the $100 price point).  That said, their 
camera making has been quite tenuous for a long time . . . with all their 
eggs in the more than rickety APS basket . . . and the bite digital has 
taken out of the market likely pushed it over the edge.

I do find it interesting that the digital market is flattening . . . and I 
expected market saturation to start showing.  The *average* Joe Consumer 
will not accept replacing a camera every couple years.  The same thing 
happened with consumer SLR's, and the general business model for them also 
tried to accelerate the product life cycle . . . perhaps not quite as 
aggressively . . . but it still found considerable resistance in the 
marketplace.  Within this list we have a very large number of "Early 
Adopters" and "Technology Chasers" compared to the mainstream consumer 
marketplace . . . this Luddite who still exclusively uses film in 20-50 
year old gear being one of the counter-weights on the list.

-- John Lind

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