Polaroid: Another Technological Death

Another popular photographic global icon is fading from the corporate sky. This time Polaroid is going the way of the Dodo. The digital age has claimed yet another scalp.

The Washington Post recently said;

“When Polaroid users pulled a picture out of their cameras, an image would slowly appear before their eyes. Now, like the process in reverse, the image of the Polaroid instant camera—dimming for years—has finally gone black.”

The American-based firm has confirmed it has stopped making its instant film and expects supplies to run out completely in 2009. The company will cease production of its film by next year. In the short term that means closing factories in Massachusetts, Mexico and the Netherlands, cutting 450 jobs and belatedly focusing on producing digital cameras, portable printers for mobile phones, TVs and DVD players.

The announcement has sparked a sales run on the cult cameras with enthusiasts rushing to snap up remaining supplies.

Industry analysts claim Polaroid has suffered greatly by its refusal to embrace the digital technology that has transformed photography. Instead, executives stuck to the belief that many photographers would want to be able to hold their developed pictures in their hands rather than view them on a screen.

Global sales of traditional camera film have been dropping by around 30% per year.

“Instant film has been falling as fast if not faster,” said Ed Lee, a digital photography analyst at the research firm InfoTrends. “At some point it was inevitable that it had to reach the point where it was going to be uneconomical to keep producing instant film.”

This news reminded me of the disappearance of the Betamax format widely distributed by Sony Corporation. It was crushed by the VHS format marketed by JVC.

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