Looking at the company's heavy dependence on its film business, and what many viewed as a moribund, ingrown corporate culture, many analysts had largely written the company off as a serious player in the rapidly evolving world of consumer imaging.
Several years ago though, Kodak took a hard look not only at where the market was going, but where it had been, and who exactly it was who had traditionally taken the majority of pictures. Not surprisingly, for decades, the heart and soul of the photo business wasn't the technically-fluent geek crowd, but rather the group who Kodak identified as the "proactive sharers," very often the mom of a family. Focusing on this group, Kodak developed a digital imaging strategy centered around ease of use, ease of sharing, good photo quality, and low price. In the process, they consciously moved away from the "high end" early-adopter crowd, to better hone their focus on the Proactive Sharers that would constitute the true mass market for digital cameras when it finally arrived.
Beyond the cameras themselves, Kodak worked hard to make it as easy as possible for people to share their digital photos once they'd taken them. This led not only to the development of some of the best consumer-level digital photo software on the market (Kodak's EasyShare software), but a line of dead-easy snapshot printers, and the nearly ubiquitous Kodak Picture Maker kiosks found in photo, drug, and thrift stores (and myriad other locations) all across the world.
Now, several years after what appeared at the time to be a draconian decision to cut short their "high end" aspirations, the wisdom of Kodak's long-term plan has finally become apparent. As of the end of last year (2004), they had not only achieved the number one position in digital camera sales, but the number one positions in snapshot photo printers, kiosks, and online photo sharing. (The raw numbers on this last area are particularly impressive: Kodak's EasyShare Gallery online service - formerly known as Ofoto - now has 20 million registered users, and over one billion images online.) As if all the above weren't enough, two of their digital camera models were recently named by J. D. Powers and Associates as having the highest consumer satisfaction ratings in the $200-299 and $300-399 price categories, smack in the middle of the mass-market "sweet spot" for pricing.
At PMA, Kodak was showing somewhat more functional versions of their very interesting EasyShare One WiFi-enabled photo sharing device (to call it a mere camera would miss most of its capabilities), a rebadged version of their very popular long-zoom DX7590 camera (now appearing as the Z7590, the first of what will likely be a broad line of long-zoom cameras), as well as a rock-bottom entry-level model, the new C300, a 3 megapixel fixed focal-length model at the breakthrough price (for an EasyShare camera) of $99.
While we didn't focus on them, Kodak had a lot of other technologies on display, including large-format printing, and some impressively sharp and colorful looking output from their all-digital "NexPress" high-volume on-demand color printing system.
All in all, the new Kodak on view at PMA 2005 is a newly resurgent company, one that to all appearances is making a successful transition from the old world of film-based consumables to the new era of electronic image capture, sharing, and output. Very impressive.
|Kodak Booth |
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