Kodak are laying off 600 people in the UK because of digital cameras. Now I feel really bad about finally going digital. It’s easy enough to damn a big firm like Kodak – they should have responded differently to digital, they should have repositioned as a service business for digital consumers, they should have dumped analogue sooner, they should have bought this company or that… but these giant, technological or social changes are almost impossible to respond to with panache.
Kodak’s survival into the digital era is now uncertain – the analogue generation is aging faster than we expected, middle class families want the immediacy of digital and the next generation of photographers won’t know how to load a roll of film. There’s a reasonable chance that Kodak won’t make it, that the business will be carved up by opportunists or fade away entirely. A few weeks ago, Ilford, venerable UK supplier of B&W materials, went into administration for the same reason. Only the nimblest of companies could manage a transition as dramatic as analogue-to-digital and these businesses are not, by any definition, nimble.