The future of photography
Photography is at a crossroads - as digital cameras get cheaper and easier to use, more people are abondoning film in favour of bits. And the companies that nutured one of the world's most popular hobbies are struggling to keep up.
The changes are being encouraged by makers of the world's most popular software packages too. Microsoft's Windows ME has built-in support and software for digital imaging. Apple has been improving its offerings for the same services ever since it released the iMac.
And people are finding that digital photography is really quite cool. It's so much easier for other people to see your pictures if they are available on the internet. So much better than letting them sit in an album or a shoe box, gathering dust on a shelf.
It's cheaper too. No more film to buy, no developing costs. Once you've bought your PC (which you were going to do anyway) and your digicam, you're almost there.
Web-based services designed to make putting photos online easier are growing fast as a result of this surge of interest.
And lagging behind are the companies that made their names through film-based photography. Kodak's gloomy financials show that the company, while desperate to change and adapt, is having trouble.
Bloomberg writer Christopher Byron says:
In the end, I think that companies as big and entrenched as Kodak become prisoners of their own corporate DNA.
I think the odds are stacked greatly against it ever getting to where it wants to go.
The one thing going for film developers is the installed base of film-using cameras. People are still going to need film to take their pictures on, but with the growth of consumer-facing online photo album services like Bootsphoto (a new UK-based service), the demand for developing of film could disappear fast, as more people see the attraction of putting their pictures somewhere where people can see them.