From a parallel universe: How Kodak successfully reinvented itself

kodak digital camera

On the left: Steve Sasson’s original 0.1 megapixel Kodak digital camera, 1975 (with cassette recorder on the side).


Moving forward a few years:

Notes from a Kodak executive management meeting, circa 1996…


“So take a look at this – a picture taken with our latest camera.”

“Really? That shot’s grainer than Kansas. What, have we reinvented the box brownie?”

“Hang on a moment. What if I told you this camera doesn’t use film?”

“Oh, you mean it’s from our digital camera project?”

“Right, this image was recorded on our latest light-sensitive computer chip.”

“Well, that changes things. So… let’s just think about this… with Moore’s Law…”

“Exactly. We’re doubling the pixel concentration every year or so: next year’s images will be twice as sharp. In ten years digital will be cheaper and better than film.”

“So in ten years, we’ll kill off our own business? Let’s hold a press conference.”

“But look at the upside, in twenty years everyone on the planet will have one of these in their pocket. Digital’s the future.”

“Nah. I say it’s time to bury this project of yours in our deepest, darkest vault.”

“I think we can agree on that.”


“Moving on…”



“Wait. If we bury this we’ll leave the market wide open to Fuji – and then they’ll leave us in their dust.”

“Maybe. But what about our billions of dollars of investment in film technology?”

“Milk it, then sell it. And in ten years’ time, we’re 100% digital. And not just cameras, but all the accessories too. Memory. Batteries. Lenses.”

“And all the labs processing our film – we just abandon them?”

“Hell no, they still get to turn everyone’s digital snaps into photo albums, posters, mugs, cards, T-shirts, you name it.”

“And Pentax, Olympus, Nikon and the rest… they’re not using our film anymore, they’re paying us royalties instead.”

“And using our memory media.”

“OK. This is going to be huge.”

“And what about video?”

“And smaller and smaller CCTV cameras.”

“And online photo galleries.”

“And data centers to keep people’s photos safe for ever.”

“And an online photo image market.”

“You know, we need to make a couple of acquisitions.”



“Getty Images.”