Kodak looks to the future

Kodak, founded in 1880, was undoubtedly one of the oldest companies presenting at CES 2008. After weathering the transition from film to digital photography, they are making strides forward with digital cameras, printers, photo frames, and software.

CES is all about what's cool right now, up to the latest nanosecond. One of the Sandbox Summit panelists summed up the pace of development when she said that her wired kids thought that the Amazon Kindle was old news.

I have to say that one of the CES displays that impressed me the most was from a classic American company that had to be one of the oldest manufacturers at the show: Kodak. Think about the transition they've had to pull off, from film to digital photography, upending their previous innovations and business. A few years ago the outlook for the company's future was incredibly pessimistic.

Kodak had a massive booth at CES and after all was said and done, I realized that they had presented some of the best home-office photo printers, digital photo frames, and scrapbooking software that I'd seen at the show. (Keep in mind that seeing everything at CES is like trying to eat at every restaurant in Manhattan in two days; no one person can possibly scour more than a fraction of the total offerings.) Hewlett-Packard demonstrated a wide variety of equipment that would definitely do a good job, but Kodak seemed to have developed the whole package deal, understanding their target audience as photographers and memory makers rather than just people who print photos.

Kodak EasyShare 5300 All-in-One (photo credit: Amy Tiemann)
A few of things that impressed me:
  • The printers on display, including the Kodak EasyShare 5300 All-in-One, produced fantastic photos. Using ultrapremium paper and the new proprietary Facial Retouch software, the sample 8 x 10s looked as good as what you'd see coming out of many photo studios. I also printed a snapshot directly from my own SD card so I know it wasn't just that they had amazing samples to work with. One funny note about the Facial Retouch Software: in a group photo you can select which faces get retouched. Now each of us can have a shot of looking like the best of the crowd at our 20th reunions.
  • Kodak is making a push for reduced ink prices, which over the life of a printer is the major expense. Black cartridges are now $9.99 and color $14.99. Price per photo printed (4x6 presumably) was quoted as 10 cents using a Kodak printer versus 28 cents average for other brands.
  • The in-store kiosks you see at places like CVS now have functionality to produce pretty nice scrapbooks while you wait, with just a few minutes of time to set up. A good option for a last-minute gift.
  • Kodak blew away the competition in the PC-software market when it comes to serious scrapbookers. Their EasyShare Custom Creations Software is still in development and has had a trial rollout involving a few retailers, but from the demo I saw, the functionality appears ready for prime time.
  • The EasyShare Customs Creations software, a free download from Kodak.com, is powered by RocketLife intelligence to group and arrange photos automatically. It worked really well, creating a "first draft" scrapbook in a jiffy that just needed a little customization (or as much as you'd want to obsess over it!). You can click to change themes, adjust photos, and add background images, or placeable graphics "stickers." The same software can also be used to create calendars, mugs, mouse pads, and other printed products.
  • The software is PC-only and I usually don't get jealous as an Apple iPhoto user, but this gave the Mac experience a good run for it's money. (Note that Kodak printers are PC and Mac compatible.) The one problem I had with the idea is that you have to make your scrapbook, burn a CD, and drop it off at a retailer for fulfillment. The purpose of the program may be to involve the retailer, but as a customer that step seemed like a hassle.

In this era of here-today-gone-tomorrow startups, it was nice to see a company that has adapted and endured for over 120 years. The Kodak employees demonstrating the new products seemed genuinely optimistic about company's developing strength in the digital world, and these were people from departments like Quality Assurance, in addition to public relations.

This is my last official CES 2008 post, but you'll be seeing the echoes of CES for weeks to come as I follow stories that I learned about in Las Vegas. The convention is a madhouse, crazy scene, but there's nothing like getting a year's worth of blog fodder in four days.

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Tech Culture
About the author

    Amy Tiemann, Ph.D., is the author of Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family and creator of MojoMom.com.

     

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