How Apple Took Out Kodak

Jillian MacNulty Picture

by Jillian MacNulty | Last Updated: Sep 28, 2017

We’ve all heard about the companies of the last decade or so that have failed–whether it was failure to keep up with technology trends, listen to their customers, or keep up financially–and landed themselves in the “failed-to-innovate” graveyard. We actually covered a few examples in our infographic, The Survivors of Tech, but I wanted to take some time to dive a little deeper into a few of their stories. This is part two in our series, and you can check out Part One here. Apple and Kodak They’re not companies you would typically think of as going head-to-head, but believe it or not, Apple was the unlikely tech giant that ultimately did Kodak in. By the 1950s Kodak was ruling the film market in the US. They were innovators, constantly finding new ways to revolutionize film and cameras alike. Innovative principles are rooted deep in the company’s century-and-a-half history, even carrying them all the way to 1975 when they invented the world’s first digital camera. That’s right, Kodak invented the first digital camera! Which means we really can’t claim that failure to innovate in the digital age is what did them in. So what pulled the rug out from under them? Enter: Apple. While Kodak was busy innovating camera technologies, Apple had their eye on a major consumer shift that was happening. I think that Kodak expert and Cambridge professor Dr. Kamal Munir puts it best:
“The change from preserving memories to sharing experiences...these were things that Kodak simply couldn’t handle.”
In the age of the smartphone, it was no longer about capturing a memory to slip in a scrapbook to be opened once or twice a year; All of the sudden, it was about capturing moments quickly and sharing them immediately. The iPhone made both of those things possible without ever having to put down your device. By integrating social media sharing capabilities into the iPhone’s native camera functionality, users were thrust into a new era of photography that enabled sharing in an instant, no scrapbook required. So Apple really did do Kodak in, and it was all because Apple kept a steady pulse on consumer behaviors. While Kodak didn’t fail to innovate, they certainly failed to adapt to their customers needs. What can we learn from Kodak’s fatal error? Innovate, but always do so through the lens of providing a stellar, future-facing customer experience.

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