Kodak makes comeback

Kodak – the famous photography brand almost killed off by the digital revolution – has made a comeback.

In a digital form, of course.

Kodak has unveiled a new smartphone at this week’s CES consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, the product of a joint venture with specialist mobile device maker Bullitt Group.

Called the Kodak IM5 smartphone it’s a 5″ high definition Android-based smartphone its makers describe as being “as easy to use as it is smart”.

Not surprisingly, photography is what the phone is touted as doing best, with a 13megapixal auto-focus main camera with unique image management software which lets users quickly edit photographs and either display them on the device, share them on social media or print them using a customised app compatible with home printers as well as future printing and sharing services.

“This is a phone for consumers who appreciate the value and heritage of the Kodak brand,” said Oliver Schulte, CEO of Bullitt Mobile. “It looks great, is easy to use and offers real value for money.”

Rochester, New York, based Kodak once dominated the photographic industry, but from the late 1990s – as digital technology took over, it began to struggle, despite having invented some of the core technology behind digital cameras.

It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2012 and the following year announced it would cease making digital cameras, pocket video cameras and digital picture frames and focus on the corporate digital imaging market. It emerged from bankruptcy in the latter half of 2013 after selling many of its patents to a group of companies including Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Adobe for some $525 million, paying down debts and liabilities. In November 2014 it announced a $19 million quarterly profit.

The new IM5 phone is largely the product of a brand licensing initiative by which Kodak receives royalties for products bearing its name. And Kodak is certainly a brand with street cred despite its recent misfortunes. But Kodak does appear to have had an active role in the camera and photographic processing technology inside.

Eileen Murphy, VP brand licensing at Kodak said in a statement: “Too many memories stay stuck on mobile phones, often because the process for sharing them is too complicated for users; that’s why we’ve partnered on the IM5, the first device in a range of mobile products that takes our heritage and experience in photographic technology and combines it with Bullitt’s expertise in designing high-quality devices for a specific target consumer.”

For the technically minded, the Kodak IM5 has an octa-core 1.7Ghz processor, 8GB standard ROM and 1GB of RAM, expandable to 32GB via a Micro SD card. It also comes with a dedicated app store (called simply “Apps”) that allows users to access a hand-picked selection of applications suited to their interests as well as full access to Google Play.

Aimed at consumers who want a smartphone that is easier to use than what they are currently using (or being offered), Kodak and Bullitt believe the IM5 serves a market segment that – to date – has been poorly served by handset manufacturers.


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