Gammal Kodakskylt

I Belaggio, nära Como i norra Italien står tiden stilla. Att döma av fonten på skylten bör den dateras till 70-talet.

Citat om Kodak före teknikskiftet

En analytiker vid CSFB skrev följande i december 1999:

“In our opinion, Kodak has the potential to dominate digital photography in the same way it has dominated traditional photography.”

1997 skrev en analytiker vid Smith Barney:

“…we believe the penetration by digital cameras of the installed base will be moderate for the next 10 years.”

Dubbelfel!

Den som förstår historien kan också förstå framtiden

I föregående inlägg återgavs några citat som illustrerar hur svårt det är att se in i framtiden och förstå vilka teknologier som kommer att slå igenom samt vilka implikationer detta får. Samtidigt finns det exempel på hur personer med ett stort historiskt kunnande kan se in i framtiden och förstå effekterna av ny teknik.

I citatet nedan jämför James M. Utterback vid MIT kamera- och filmbranschen med 1800-talets isindustri i USA. På den tiden det inte fanns teknik för kylning eller isproduktion skar man ut stora isblock på kyligare platser, isolerade dessa med sågspån och transporterade isen till varmare breddgrader. En stor och komplex arbetsprocess som blev helt värdelös så snart is kunde produceras industriellt och senare med hjälp av frysar. Ungefär som produktionen av film innan fotografin digitaliserades.

Utterbacks citat nedan ger en utmärkt illustration av hur kunskap om historien gör det möjligt att bättre förstå samtida trender och förändringar.

”As of 1993, the future of Sony’s new image-producing technology is not clear. It may be a technology with only a few special applications; but then, it may become the way people take pictures in the future – which raises the question of how the massive industry based on photosensitive film will respond. The multibillion dollar industry of Kodak, Fuji Film, docens of camera makers, and tens of thousands of independent film processors around the world may be in the same situation as the nineteenth-century harvested ice industry.”
// Utterback 1994, p. 181

Kodaks årsredovisning år 2000

Det är få saker som ger perspektiv på tillvaron som att läsa gamla strategidokument. Nedan ett utdrag ur VD-ordet i Kodaks årsredovisning år 2000. Fascinerande hur det på allvar kan argumenteras för Kodak som en stabil och trygg investering precis innan företaget sprängdes i bitar av digitaliseringen.

“Last year, the US economy was red hot, and the so-called “new economy” was even hotter. Today, as you scan the business headlines, the key word is “slump”… consumer confidence is in a blue funk… and the NASDAQ couldn’t get much flatter.
The question for investors now becomes, “Where do you invest your money after the bubble bursts?”

Let me suggest three possible answers. First, it makes sense, now more than ever, to invest in strong brands. Because when time are tighter, consumers are less inclined to risk their money on a new or unknown name.

Second, invest in products and services that offer high satisfaction at a low price. In other words, value-for-money is king.

Third, it might be wise to seek companies that are adept at generating cash. Those are the firms that will continue to invest in themselves and prepare for growth, regardless of the economy.

And that as you might have already surmised, brings us straight to Kodak. However, if a great brand and a great balance sheet are not sufficiently compelling, there is something else investors should consider: this is a very smart time to be in the picture business.

Picture-taking is now at an all-time high worldwide. Amateur photographers took more than 80 billion snapshots last year, a new record. They ordered more than 100 billion prints, another milestone for the industry.

For the past century, our business has been all about making it simpler for people to capture better images, first with film, and more recently, with digital technology. And, as we continues to make film and digital photography more accessible, picture-taking will continue to grow.

Today, though, image capture is only half the story. The real growth in our business will accrue to those who give people new and better ways to use their pictures.
Take, for example, the world of opportunity that has opened on the Internet. Last year, more than $45 billion worth of products and services were sold on the Web – with the help of more than one billion online images. And 75% of those images are touched by Kodak technology.”