THE biggest oddity of Kodak's woes and Fujifilm's revitalisation is that, as we put it in a story this week , "Kodak acted like a stereotypical change-resistant Japanese firm, while Fujifilm acted like a flexible American one." The article looked mostly at Kodak, since it is the news: an iconic American powerhouse lies at death's door. But a closer examination of Fujifilm is also warranted to understand how it made the transition away from film—in particular after Kodak filed a lawsuit against the Japanese firm alleging patent infringement on January 13th. Where Kodak is trying to monetize its R&D in its one core business, photography, the digital imaging sector accounts for only about one-fifth of Fujifilm's revenue, down from more than half a decade ago. How Fujifilm succeeded serves as a warning to American firms about the danger of trying to take the easy way out: competing through one's marketing rather than taking the harder route of developing new products and new businesses.
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THE digital camera had a serial number of "0000001" etched on its case, your correspondent recalls. The Kodak Digital Camera System (DCS) 100 he walked around with in 1991 was, quite literally, the first commercially available digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera. The device had a charged-coupled device (CCD) sensor array retrofitted on the back of a Nikon F3 body. It came with a shoulder-pack containing a computer, 200MB hard drive to store a 100 or so images, enormous batteries and a tiny LCD screen for viewing stored images.
IT WAS the Apple of its era. Just like the late Steve Jobs with computers and music-players, George Eastman (pictured below behind the camera, with Thomas Edison) did not invent the camera and photographic development. But he simplified the technology. He outmaneuvered rivals. And he marketed his products in novel ways.