The Digital Photography disruption

The impressive demise of "analog" photography. In a blink of an eye 80 billions photos per year taken using film disappeared. The digital photos took over and multiplied.

I read an interesting article on the Huffington Post by Peter Diamandis discussing the disruption that hit Kodak as film disappeared to leave the stage to digital photography.

It is an interesting set of insights particularly relevant to us at EIT Digital and to the companies we are helping to create market disruptions as well as to our partners that are established in the market and don't want to be disrupted.  Worth reading.

What draw my attention to the article at first glance was the graph, that I am showing in this post. The growth of photos taken in the 180 years since photography was invented has kept growing, turning exponential in the last decades.

Around the turn of this century a new technology made possibile to take pictures without using film. You can use a sensor to convert the photons into digits and then a computer to convert those digits into printing (or visualisation)instructions to see the photo.  Guess who invented such technology? Yes, it was Kodak.

However, Kodak made plenty of money by selling film and it made little sense to them to push digital photography and kill their golden egg goose. The digital photography technology, as all technology when they appear, was nowhere near providing the quality of film, and many at Kodak (and elsewhere) where convinced that it was just a crude version of photography that would have never affected the well established photography market.

Indeed, for some ten years that was the case. And during those ten years the film market kept growing providing more and more revenues to Kodak. By the middle of the last decade the number of photos reached 90 billions, with a few billions consisting of digital photos (Kodak estimated the peak of film based photos at 80 billion in 1997). Then in a short 5 years span, by 2011, the overall number of photos reached 380 billion (!) but the number of photos taken using film dropped to 4 billions, that is the number of photos that were taken 40 years before. And today the number of photos based on film is basically 0. Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

The estimated number of photos taken in 2016 is somewhere in the 10s trillions, with some 3 trillion being exchanged via Facebook, WhatsApp, and Snapchat.  Kodak business has been completely disrupted.

What I find impressive is the pace of change that may happen and how this is happening by undermining the technology assumption that are sustaining a biz.

We are going to see a few more in the coming years, probably in the next decade: 

  • Robotisation will be one, affecting several sectors and we are starting to see the first signs. 
  • Self driving cars will change the automotive market and the very perception of transportation leading to a dramatic decrease in the number of cars, shifting the focus on sharing and paying for a service, rather than owning and paying for a car.
  • Health care will be more and more about proactivity and we will be more interested in well being as a service (including drugs as a service).
  • Connectivity will become a fabric, part of the ambient, taken for granted, cellphones (in the third decades) will likely disappear to become an embedded property of objects and a similar things will happen to screens.

Stay tuned, because the future is coming sooner than we expect!

Author - Roberto Saracco

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