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Ailing Kodak shutters its camera operations
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 9, 2012

Eastman Kodak, whose cheap Brownie camera brought photography to the masses a century ago, said Thursday it would stop producing cameras altogether as its struggles through bankruptcy.

Kodak said it would close down its "capture devices business" -- digital cameras, pocket video cameras and digital picture frames -- and focus its efforts on photo printing and printers.

But it could license out its brand for other producers of cameras.

"Kodak's strategy has been to improve margins in the capture device business by narrowing our participation in terms of product portfolio, geographies and retail outlets," said Kodak consumer businesses president Pradeep Jotwani.

"Today's announcement is the logical extension of that process, given our analysis of the industry trends," he said in a statement.

Kodak, which sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and entered a restructuring program last month, dominated the US photography business for decades but failed to keep pace with the boom in digital cameras in the mid-1990s.

Phasing out its cameras will save Kodak more than $100 million in operating costs, it said.

The iconic New York state-based company faces the daunting challenge of adapting to a film-free world in which people increasingly rely on smartphones for snapping pictures.

Kodak shares were trading at less than a dollar a share when the company filed for bankruptcy.

In its heyday, Kodak shares topped $80 in 1996 -- just at the outset of the digital photo revolution that eventually replaced the need for consumers to buy Kodak film, once a virtual monopoly in the US market.

The company had pinned its survival hopes on selling off patents to raise money.

That could bring substantial cash and buy time, though the threat of bankruptcy will make such sales more difficult.

"When one is a desperate seller, the buyers have no interest in rushing because it will be cheaper when Kodak is completely on the floor," said Gregori Volokhine of Meeschaert Capital Markets.

Kodak's books have been awash with red ink for years. The last time it reported a net profit was a small gain in 2007.

Its decline was already marked when it was dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial Average of 30 top US companies in 2004.

Founded in 1892 by inventor George Eastman, Kodak developed handheld "Brownie" cameras that were sold at popular prices, and furnished the film that would keep consumers pumping profits into the country for decades.

Three generations of Americans and many in other countries learned to snap photos with Brownies.

And "Kodak Moment," the company's advertising catchphrase for its film, was embedded deep into the vernacular.

The company meanwhile was lauded as one of the country's top technology innovators -- the Apple or Google of its time.

NASA lunar orbiters in the 1960s brought back some of the earliest images of the moon's surface on Kodak film, and the first astronauts to walk on the moon documented their historic expedition with a shoe box-sized Kodak camera.

Kodak also furnished the film for countless Hollywood movies, including 80 Oscar-winning "Best Pictures," according to the firm's website, which said it had won nine Academy Awards of its own for scientific and technical excellence.

Ironically, Kodak pioneered research into digital photography beginning in the mid-1970s.

But it was Asian electronics manufacturers that stole a march in that market in the 1990s as Kodak failed to see the need to break from its old business lines.

"They were the ones who invented the digital camera, but they didn't believe in it," said Gregori Volokhine of Meeschaert Capital Markets.

The company said it had sufficient liquidity to continue operating normally and paying employees during the bankruptcy process. Its foreign subsidiaries were not subject to the proceedings, it added.

The company is operating with the aid of a $950 million credit facility from Citigroup, aiming to emerge in a more competitive position during 2013.

But the bankruptcy placed the jobs of Kodak's 19,000 remaining employees in question.

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Google to make home entertainment system: report
San Francisco (AFP) Feb 9, 2012 - Google will mirror Apple's winning hardware-software formula with an Android-powered entertainment system that wirelessly streams content through homes, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The Journal cited unnamed sources as saying Google will take the unprecedented step of stamping its own brand on the home-entertainment system, which was expected to debut this year.

Google, which announced in August it is buying US smartphone maker Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in cash, told AFP it would not comment on "rumor and speculation."

The California-based technology firm has openly shared a vision of its open-source Android software being used to power a wide array of devices aside from smartphones and tablets.

Google also operates an Internet music service along with video-sharing website YouTube, both of which have potential to provide digital content to home entertainment systems.

Apple has proven the money-making power of combining devices, software and digital entertainment material in its iPad, iPhone, and iPod devices.


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Samsung can continue selling Galaxy tabs in Germany: court
Frankfurt (AFP) Feb 9, 2012
South Korea's Samsung Electronics can continue to sell its Galaxy Tab 10.1N tablet computer in Germany, a German court ruled Thursday, rejecting a bid by arch-rival Apple to have them banned. In the third such blow to United States giant Apple, the regional court in Duesseldorf ruled that Samsung's redesigned tablet computer - which Apple had claimed infringed on its patent rights - was no ... read more

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