Can printing save Kodak? - TechCentral

Can printing save Kodak?

Anthony Doyle

Embattled Kodak, which filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in January, wants to reinvent itself as a company focused on consumer and commercial printing, rather than on image capturing.

To this end, Kodak’s SA operation signed a deal with Incredible Connection last November that sees the IT retailer stocking Kodak’s recent range of inkjet printers. Kodak claims the printers cost less per print than competitors’ inkjet devices that rely on low-cost devices but expensive consumables like replacement ink cartridges.

Anthony Doyle, sales director for Kodak’s local distributor Optus Brands, says that in the nine months since Incredible Connection began carrying Kodak’s printers it has seen its market share grow to almost 15% of all inkjet printers sold by the retailer.

“Internationally, Kodak is seeing similar success with the likes of Walmart in the US and Dixons in the UK. In the case of Dixons, as many as 30% of the inkjet printers sold are Kodaks,” Doyle says.

“On the consumer front, inkjet printers and retail printing systems are going to be the focus going forward,” he adds. Retail printing systems are the Kodak touch-screen kiosks seen in its Kodak Express stores. “Printing is more profitable than actual hardware.”

Doyle says Kodak’s camera and digital capture businesses were sizeable but “very unprofitable”. Consequently, Kodak has partnered with Samsung to sell its cameras in Kodak Express shops in addition to selling Kodak’s printer range and consumables.

“Soon the stores will also stock Samsung phones as they’re become even more common image capture devices than compact cameras,” says Doyle. “Even entry-level phones are taking decent photos these days.”

On the commercial front, Doyle says Kodak retains a strong presence in high-speed commercial printing and newspaper printing and continues to deal with companies like Naspers for large print runs. The company is also focusing on large-format printing for the commercial market.

Alfred Otieno, Kodak’s business manager for its consumer division in SA says that apart from the retail angle, the consumer business is heavily focused on the home and small office customer.

“Kodak’s value proposition is simple,” says Otieno. “Our printers are the simplest to use and provide the lowest cost for prints and consumables.”

Kodaks current range of home and small-office printers varies in price from R999 up to R1 499 and all models take only two cartridges, one black and white and one colour. The black and white cartridges cost R99, with the colour cartridges priced at R150.

The new range of printers includes touch controls, the top of the range ESP 2170 offers an LCD screen for previewing images from an SD card or USB flash drive, and the whole range offers users the ability to send images to the printer over a Wi-Fi connection using Kodak’s mobile phone application called Pic Flick.

Available for BlackBerry, iOS and Android handsets, the app allows users to print directly from mobile devices. A version of the app for iPad, called Pic Flick HD, is available in the US App Store and will be available in the SA App Store in coming weeks.

Kodak has also revamped the software that accompanies its printers, making it possible to print documents from any Android device via the Google Cloud Print service, apply borders or create photobooks, or print large images across multiple A4 pages that can then be tiled.

The challenge for Kodak may prove to be getting consumers excited about printing images again. In the heady days of film, processing and printing were part of the photographic process, but in the era of digital photography consumers’ photographs increasingly live on phones, tablets and laptops, with very few making it to print. If Kodak is to be successful in its new guise as a champion of print, it’s going to have to change this.  — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media

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