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Kodak calls it quits on cameras

Ancient photography company Kodak has thrown in the towel on its camera business to focus on licensing, marking the end of an era.

Ancient American imaging company Kodak announced yesterday that it's pulling down the shutters on its long-standing camera business. By the end of June this year, Kodak expects to have phased out its range of digital cameras, pocket video cameras and digital picture frames.

The news follows the company filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month. It marks the end of an era for Kodak, which enjoyed a dominant position in the industry for most of the 20th century, and is renowned for pioneering mass-market and amateur photography.

Kodak's Gallery service will remain online, as will its retail-based photo printing and range of inkjet printers, but the company will primarily focus (nope, not even sorry) on licensing, which makes sense considering it holds over 1,000 digital imaging patents.

"For some time, Kodak's strategy has been to improve margins in the capture device business by narrowing our participation in terms of product portfolio, geographies and retail outlets," Kodak consumer business president Pradeep Jotwani said in a statement.

"Today's announcement is the logical extension of that process, given our analysis of the industry trends."

It's a sad moment for Kodak, as the company has a long history of producing revolutionary cameras -- including the first digital camera, which was developed by a Kodak engineer in 1975. The Brownie box, launched in 1900, was the first camera that had widespread mass-market appeal and popularised low-cost, casual photography by introducing the concept of capturing a spontaneous snapshot of everyday life -- 'a Kodak moment'.

Kodak has always followed a 'razor-blade' sales strategy, selling simple and inexpensive cameras and making profit from pricier paper, chemicals and films. This was not a tactic that translated well into the new digital era, and despite being early to the party, Kodak was slow to implement its digital change strategy and got left far behind by Japanese rivals and, later, camera phones.

The company has been given until February 2013 to dust itself down and concoct a reorganisation plan, and from the looks of it, it's not messing about. We harbour a soft spot for venerable old tech companies, so we do wish it the best of luck.

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