Talk about a Kodak acquisition seems to be heating up as giant tech companies — including Google, Microsoft, and Apple — continue to engage in a patent-hoarding war. Just two days ago, Google agreed to acquire Motorola for $12.5 billion in order to snatch up the roughly 25,000 patents owned by the handset maker. Bloomberg writes that the patents held by Kodak may be worth five times more than the company itself, making it a prime acquisition target:
If Kodak’s patents can command $3 billion, acquiring the company would outweigh the liabilities [...] An acquirer would also be able to sell Kodak’s commercial and consumer printing businesses and the digital camera unit for at least $2.5 billion, he said.
Buyers may include Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, Samsung, the Suwon, South Korea-based maker of Galaxy phones and tablet computers, and Google, according to Luskin.
That’s crazy — can you imagine Google or Microsoft buying Kodak to strip it of its patents and then selling off the corpse to some other camera maker? No wonder Kodak adopted a ‘poison pill’.
Ever wonder how George Eastman chose the name “Kodak” for the company he founded?
The letter “K” had been a favorite of Eastman’s, he is quoted as saying, “it seems a strong, incisive sort of letter.” He and his mother devised the name Kodak with an anagram set. He said that there were three principal concepts he used in creating the name: it should be short, one cannot mispronounce it, and it could not resemble anything or be associated with anything but Kodak. [#]
In 1907, Kodak became the first company to integrate its name and look into a symbol, and starting in the 1930′s, Kodak adopted yellow and red as its “trade dress” colors.
We reported yesterday that Kodak has taken defensive measures to prevent a hostile takeover for its extensive collection of digital imaging patents. One of these patents is an image previewing invention that has earned Kodak nearly $1 billion from Samsung and LG, and that’s at the center of an ongoing legal battle with Apple. With the income generated by patent lawsuits dwindling, the company is now considering the sale of 1,100 patents (about 10% of its portfolio), including the valuable image previewing patent. A sale might bring in significantly more cash than the market value of the company, which currently sits at about $600 million.
If you look at the price of Kodak’s stock, you’ll see that the company is currently worth about $600 million — a figure that may be significantly lower than what its digital imaging patents could sell for. With the risk looming that a buyer might try to acquire the patents by simply taking over the company, Kodak is taking evasive maneuvers:
The Rochester photo and imaging company said Monday that its board had created a special class of stock to serve as a firewall in case someone tries to take a majority interest in the company.
Under the terms of the deal, if any investor tries to buy 5 percent or more of the company over the next three years, Kodak would issue all current stockholders shares of preferred stock. As a result, any takeover attempt would require the purchase of additional shares that could make the cost prohibitive.
In the business world, this tactic is known as a “poison pill“.
Kodak uploaded a video to YouTube recently thats been causing quite a bit of controversy. It’s a talk by Rob Hummel at Cine Gear Expo 2011 in which he states that bringing your digital camera onto an airplane will damage its sensor and cause dead pixels (it’s about 8min into the video). The reasoning is that at altitudes of 20,000ft and higher, you would need 125ft of concrete to shield yourself from the gamma rays, which induce voltages in the sensors and fry the photo sites. He also claims that manufacturers only transport cameras by sea, and that they all keep quiet about this because they fear a class action lawsuit.
The comments on the YouTube video and the dpreview forums are filled with people who believe that this is simply an attempt by Kodak to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) over digital cameras in an effort to lure more people to using film. So, which is it? Fact or FUD?
Forbes released its list of 100 most reputable companies in the world earlier this month, and a number of camera makers made the cut. Sony placed 6th, Canon 8th, Panasonic 13th, Kodak 41st, Samsung 43rd, and Fujifilm 47th. The Reputation Institute conducted the study with 48,000 consumers:
Each company earned a “Global RepTrak Pulse” score of zero to 100, representing an average measure of people’s feelings for it. The scores were statistically derived from calculations of four emotional indicators: trust, esteem, admiration and good feeling.
The Institute also analyzed what it calls the seven dimensions of corporate reputation. It found that perceptions of the enterprise (workplace, governance and citizenship) trumped product perceptions (products and services plus innovation) and performance (financial performance and leadership) in driving reputation. [#]
What we found strange is that Kodak — a company struggling to find its place in the photo industry — placed relatively high on the list (41st), while Nikon — a dominant player — failed to even make the cut. What’s with that?
One of our keen-eyed readers named Daniel recently opened up his July issue of Wired magazine and saw this advertisement for the popular Fujifilm FinePix X100. What caught his eye was the following line:
The FinePix X100 provides smooth tonal rendering, an exceptionally low S/N ratio and outstanding image clarity.
S/N stands for “signal to noise” and an “exceptionally low S/N ratio” would mean the camera shoots extremely low-quality, noisy photographs — hardly the thing you’d want to boast about in an advertisement!
Update: Title and tweet fail: we originally wrote “Kodak” instead of “Fujifilm” in the title of this post. Sorry Kodak!
Known as the “dean of industrial design,” Walter Dorwin Teague believed that good artistic design fit both form and function into a single aesthetic package. During his career-long collaboration with Eastman Kodak Company, he designed several popular cameras, including the 1934 “Baby Brownie” (shown on the stamp). [#]
Besides designing cameras for Kodak for 30 years, Teague also worked for the likes of Boeing and Texaco, becoming one of the most prolific industrial designers in US history.
Here’s a fun bit of photo history: did you know that back in 1982, Kodak attempted to introduce a cartridge film format that resembled a floppy disk? Each rectangular cartridge contained a circular film disc with 15 exposures, and the disc was rotated 24 degrees after each exposure to line up the next frame.
Disc film did not prove hugely successful, mainly because the image on the negative was only 11 mm by 8 mm, leading to generally unacceptable grain and poor definition in the final prints. The film was intended to be printed with special 6-element lenses from Kodak, but many labs simply printed discs with standard 3-element lenses used for larger negative formats. The resulting prints often disappointed the consumer. [#]
Here’s a neat blast from the past — a Kodak Instamatic commercial from the 1960s, when the latest technology was the ability to take four flash photographs without changing bulbs. “Four full power flashes in one tiny cube!”. The camera set was priced at $18, which is about $131 when adjusted for inflation.