One of the major trends we saw at CES this year was connectivity. Every electronics maker has a “smart” something, boasting products that communicate with one another so that all of your technology can be in constant sync. And cameras were no exception at the show, with every manufacturer showing off a smart device of some sort.
In an appropriate move, Kodak was one of them. The beleaguered camera company has infamously struggled this year, and has just barely managed to avoid filing for bankruptcy (so far). Kodak has managed to keep its head above water by selling off patents and technology divisions of its business, which is obviously not a sustainable long-term solution to its ongoing financial troubles.
More than one industry analyst has suggested that Kodak move away from electronics production and start looking at cloud-based technology solutions, and the manufacturer’s lineup this year seemed to second the idea.
During our CES booth tour, Kodak focused on its new Facebook app, Wi-Fi camera, and printing center kiosks. All three of these products find their purpose in easy-sharing, and two out of three of them forego camera manufacturing altogether.
Kodak’s new Facebook app (now available) takes your Facebook albums and lets you easily format and print them straight from the site. And the kiosks, which you’ve likely seen at Target or CVS stores before, used Facebook Connect to access your photos to print directly.
Kodak’s EasyShare Wireless Camera M750 also markets its connectivity–but what’s most important about the M750 is that Kodak isn’t just trying to sell a camera, it’s simultaneously pushing all of those cloud-based applications the company has been pouring more and more attention into. You can download Kodak’s EasyShare app for Android, iOS, or BlackBerry devices and immediately share them to Facebook–where you can used the Kodak app to print them from (you can also upload to the Kodak gallery or email images). You can also backup your photos and videos to any compatible Wi-Fi device.
And it’s not as if it’s a terrible camera with incredibly lacking specs: it has a 3-inch capacitive touchscreen, 16-megapixel sensor, 5x zoom lens, and shoots HD video (retails for $170, available this spring). It’s nothing to drool over, but it’s more than adequate. Its selling point is its immediate sharing options.
We’re still uncertain what phone-meets-camera device is going to end up finding a fit with consumers. Samsung is also launching smart cameras with built in Wi-Fi and 5GB of free cloud storage to a dedicated platform, and Polaroid has taken an incredibly unique step toward camera-ifying the smartphone, versus the other way around. Kodak is sort of hitting the middle ground here, but the long-reaching effects could be more important than the device itself. The company is looking far down the line here–long after it’s done making cameras, it’s photo imaging solutions and built-in camera applications could easily survive and live on in other products.
It’s a smart way for the company to transition to (or maybe just focus on) cloud applications without forsaking its entire product lineup, and it’s a safe bet that buyers will continue to be drawn to smart devices. How smart they want their cameras (built-in apps? Android OS? Just Wi-Fi connectivity?) however, remains to be seen.