A little "What is Old is New Again"

We think that today’s business model with services combined with cool handheld devices is new. Moreover, these services may be performed by people, systems, or manner unknown by the customer.  Email on your iPhone, Android, and Blackberry powered by the Cloud. A marketing phrase could be something like “You press the virtual keys and Google will do all the rest”.

However, this is really a case of what is Old is New again. George Eastman of Kodak fame coined the marketing slogan “You press the button and we do all the rest” when he introduced theKodak camera in 1888.  

Pre-loaded with Film and Processing

His camera included the camera, the film, and processing, providing a customer pictures after they pressed the button. All you had to do was buy the camera, take the picture, drop off the camera, and then a bit later pick up your pictures and your camera refreshed with new film.

 

The iPhone of 100 years ago

This type of complete ecosystem is being revised with a vengeance. Today, the fight is on between Apple, Google, Amazon, and now Barnes & Noble for providing a very similar experience. You buy an iPhone, Android, Kindle, orNook (Blackberry is trying, but that is about all) and you have a device that has very much the same experience.  From these devices you press a virtual button and the device performs the function, including taking a picture.

Like the Kodak model, another button press (assuming you did not just press the button for your pictures to be published on Facebook) starts an application that moves the picture to a processing center in the Cloud and within days, your pictures show up at your door.

This the technology of vertical integration is not the only what-is-old-is-new-again.  No great business is built without someone trying to take a piece or trying to “level the playing field”.  In 1954 Kodak developed perhaps us most famous product, Kodacolor. Kodak was both the only producer of color film and had the only process to develop the film.  So, when Kodak sold a roll, they included a fee for processing as Kodak was the only company capable ofprocessing the film.

Kodak was eventually forced, based on the U.S. Sherman Anti-Trust act to un-bundle the film from the processing and license other companies the process to develop thefilm.

Apple’s iTunes integration with their “i” devices have alsoraised similar anti-trust claims:

Even when companies figure out a way to break the Apple closed ecosystem, Apple response by closing the holes.

Finally, we look at Steve Jobs and the culture he built at Apple and somehow we think that it is unique. I think that this quote from George Eastman over 100 year ago is something we could believe would come from Mr. Jobs: “Nothing is more important than the value of our name and the quality it stands for.  We must makequality our fighting argument”.

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