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Kodak bankruptcy: Why can't U.S. firms realize the potential of their discoveries?

PhotographyMarketingArtSteve JobsAmpex Corporation

Your editorial "A sad 'Kodak' moment" of Jan. 21 clearly identified the problem that resulted in Kodak's bankruptcy as a lack of vision by the executives. As you pointed out, it's ironic that Kodak invented digital photography in 1976 but didn't move forward aggressively.

Kodak's failure to capitalize on a technology that it invented is not the first example of an American company lacking the vision to fully develop products into marketable items. Ampex invented video recording only to see foreign companies such as Sony move the technology forward and capture the major share of the market while Ampex disappeared. Xerox developed dry photocopying and was the industry leader for many years only to see foreign firms with better quality copiers take a majority of the market share. Motorola invented the hand-held cellular phone, but now it has only a small market share. Polaroid developed rapid photography only to disappear, another casualty of digital photography. These companies were led by executives without vision, or if they had vision, it was in the wrong direction.

It's very possible that these failed companies were led by executives with MBAs or accounting, low-risk mentalities who declined to move forward to develop entirely new products based on the new technologies.

On the other hand, it's truly great to see a leader with outstanding vision such as Steve Jobs at Apple. Jobs was a great example of an executive with outstanding vision, enabling him to develop great products even though other companies made the original discoveries. Other examples of executives with vision are Ted Turner of cable television, Eric Schmidt of Google, and the Corning executives who moved the company away from manufacturing dishes and into new technologies such as fiber-optic cable and LCD television displays.

Fredrick Matos, Annapolis

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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