Kodak – formally known as Eastman Kodak company – was founded in 1888 by George Eastman. Kodak invented the first low-cost camera that made it possible for virtually anyone to be a photographer. The Brownie was released in 1900 for the cost of $1. The company sold millions of Brownies and dominated the photography market for almost a century. In 1976, Kodak had 90 percent market share for photographic film sales. However, as technology evolved, the company stayed too attached to film-based cameras and lost out big time during the growth of digital photography.
Kodak actually invented the first digital camera – in 1975 Kodak engineer Steve Sasson created a film-less camera. It is somewhat ironic, then, that an unwillingness to adapt to the popularity of digital cameras is, in part, what killed Kodak. By missing out on digital photography, Kodak also missed out on the possible profits or all the associated products – printers, software, file sharing, and apps. Instead of focusing on the new possibilities that digital cameras represented, Kodak pointedly avoided digital cameras for fear of losing money in their film sales. Ultimately, their unwillingness to adapt nearly killed the company completely.
The company still exists, but it isn’t exactly doing well. In 2012 the company filed for bankruptcy protection, although in 2013 it emerged from bankruptcy after shedding some portions of its business. Despite actually inventing the innovation that nearly drove them out of business, Kodak’s inability to continue the innovative thinking far enough to realize how the technology could still be profitable is what spelled trouble for the company. That’s another thing about innovation – it doesn’t do any good if you give up halfway instead of following ideas through to their fruition.
Kodak is one of the classic failure to innovate stories, but there are others:
Motorola failed to understand the importance of the innovation known as the smartphone. Although the company did really well in the 2000’s with the Razr, its cell phone division quickly fell behind with the rise of phones with email and data capabilities, a trend Motorola failed to accommodate. Although the company still survives, its cell phone division has suffered significantly due to this failure to innovate.
Dell initially did really well by selling their products directly to consumers instead of through stores like competitors IBM and Hewlett-Packard. However, when mobile devices became popular and started to displace the traditional computer market, Dell faltered. Eventually they began offering smartphone, mini-laptops, and tablets, but it took them a while to jump on the bandwagon – and now they’re following instead of leading.
Aside from its image problems, poor controllers, and eventual lack of game titles, part of the reason that Atari failed is because of it didn’t keep up with the innovative potential of multi-player gaming. In 2008 Atari became a wholly owned subsidiary of another company.
Palm was a company that did really well in the 1990’s when it made handheld personal organizers. However, with the advent of smartphones, the company suffered. Although eventually they did offer a smartphone, they waited far too long to do so, failing to realize that customers wanted to enjoy the innovation of getting their wireless voice and data from their organizing device. The company still exists, but it doesn’t dominate any markets like it once did.