As an amateur photographer, I stood fast to chemical film until I couldn't find Ektar25 or the best Ektachrome. I still keep my Canon, Konica and Pentax empty bodies.
Remarkable films. Recently I compared some Ektar25 photos exposed with a Canon EOS-10 with Sigma lenses, to 10Mpixel digital photos taken with similar optics, and the level of detail and color dynamics of the film are still better. You have to compare with professional grade bodies, like a Canon EOS 7D, 18Mpixel to get better photos. But that costs today more than 4 times what you would pay for a good film camera.
There is one aspect of digital imaging that is common to several other "digital" wares, and that is the lowering of the quality expectation from the user. The average photo quality for film cameras was so much better than anything digital that the early adopters of digital cameras had to come up with excuses for why they were doing it. With time, the practicity and immediate results overcame customer demands for quality.
But it was clear to any observer that digital photography would completely dominate film in the consumer arena. As several others pointed out, Kodak management was in denial for too long. Kodak had extremely talented EEs that researched on digital image sensors, high-definition streaming video, digital image file formats, film scanning technology, high-end ASIC for imaging, and film printing technology.
Today it seems very hard to steer the company to become a major player in these areas, but back then Kodak had stature to participate in just about all areas of DSC and video, but apparently refused to do so.
The decision of cutting the manufacturing of high-end films was one of the worst decisions they could take. A significant masket, albeit smaller, of professional and enthusiast photographers would still shoot film, if those fabulous films were still available.
I recently tried to scan in some negatives and slides taken in the 1980s and
1990s. The Kodak film did not fade, (neither did Agfa), but many of the other negatives are hardly visible. Pity about their demise, but when they "applied sanctions" against South Africa, Fuji, Agfa and other simply stepped in. Their PowerPC823 or 821 digital camera was a real dog compare to others out there. The throw-away box camera for a "once-off" was short lived. Thank goodness for the likes of Sony, Canon, Nikon for forging ahead with digital technology. Others merged (Minolta and Konica), what happened to Ashai Pentax? etc. Look at the prices for 12 megapixel pocket cameras. Indeed a harsh industry to be in. Can't see Kodak getting ahead of Japan and China or Korea.
For another example of a company that managed to successfully adapt, look up "Fisher Body" on Wikipedia. They were making horse-drawn carriages at the dawn of the automobile age, and made the transition to building cars.
I think the key is to take the knowledge and expertise you have and see how to apply it to the new products. The old machinery and the old marketing arrangements will lose their value quickly, so be ready to abandon them.
The markets for vacuum tubes, magnetic tape, photographic film etc. no longer can support anything more than tiny niche players. But a few of the companies that formerly made those products do still exist as large companies, serving different markets.
Depending on which source is used, I've seen Kodak ranked in 4th, 5th or 6th place for market share in digital cameras. Unfortunately, Kodak seems to have concentrated on the low-end digital camera; a market that is suffering due to the in-phone cameras. Kodak is also one of the most respected brands in the high-end digital imaging arena.
So, they went from a dieing market (film) into a new and fast growing market (low-end digital) only to have the new market also turn into a dieing segment. The high end market, while likely a good high-margin business has volumes that are undoubtedly too low to sustain a large company.
Is that bad luck or bad business decision making? Maybe both.
good article that covers Kodak and other high tech companies who have managed to drill themselves into the ground. These things read like a FAA crash report - "controlled flight into terrain" in other words someone took a perfectly good airplane and flew it into the ground.
So Cannon, Fuji, Olympus, Konika etc.. have managed to adapt - if you look at Kodaks website (as of this morning anyway) it still talks about film! They have a booth at CES this week with mainly sameo - sameo un compelling products but no film - surprisingly enough.
Well, I tend to agree with most of the writers above (not about bad management, you are correct there). I believe that what could actually save Kodak is film. Whatever digital thing they should care about should somehow be related to film.
Film was (is) their crown jewel and film is the one thing that the competition cannot touch Kodak.
So I believe that Kodak should have moved fiercely into scanners, into printers, into film developing/scanning/printing services (offer a combined scanning/bookmaking service like a Blurb for the analog world). They should have focused on providing leading edge scanning software and photo-editing software.
They should have provided a really cheap film, when film prices were going up, to support things that turned really popular such as lomos.
They should have made even cheaper the movie film process, when digital cameras started to appear.
They should have cooperated more with large camera brands to keep producing more film cameras.
The digital era gave an unexpected gift to Kodak that it missed completely. Outragely expensive film cameras (especially medium and large format) became rapidly extremely cheap. People now buy their wet dreams cameras that would cost several thousands for what? a couple of hundrend euros... Where is Kodak to exploit this?
And so on...
What would happen if they made digital cameras? When is the last time you bought one? They are all integrated into cell phones, iPads are whatever.
Don't forget that they have a huge pending liability for lots of retirement packages from the good old days of the film money machine.
It is not just a management failure. It is the legacy of any old line manufacturing company.