Zooming In: Goings On in the Industry, Early 2013 EditionFebruary 2013 By Bob McKay
I was lucky enough to have been involved in the early stages of the growth of several companies that have become key players in the evolution of the new norm, and to have also worked with or for several that are in decline. Let’s mix past and future together randomly in the paragraphs ahead.
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My old friend Burt Keppler (RIP) once engaged me in a conversation regarding the post-war decline of the hitherto all-powerful German camera makers. I reckoned that American corporate buyers deliberately sought non-German sources and thus built up the Japanese suppliers; Burt thought the German decline was more because of the pre-war exodus of German/Jewish engineers from Hitler’s reach to America and elsewhere. Luckily our industry and its people have evolved to the point that we once again see a revival of the German camera industry, as Leica has regained the pinnacle it once held in 35mm cameras and does now in digital ones. And Japan continues to amaze and impress us with its creativity. The ability to create and make cameras has spread around Asia like a pandemic, with South Korea, Taiwan, China, Thailand, etc., becoming key ingredients in the imaging soup.
Two years ago a Chinese company called Beijing Huaqi Information Digital Technology Co. Ltd. had a big stand at the CES featuring a McLaren Formula 1 racing car (F1 is huge in Europe and Asia); the Beijing company’s camera brand was “aigo,” and they were a major sponsor of that team. At the show they announced their imminent arrival into the U.S. market, with a local HQ in Valencia near Los Angeles. Since then, the aigo logo has disappeared from the race cars.
Another noisemaker at even earlier trade shows (2009) was the Aussie company Memjet, whose founder Kia Silverbrook is Australia’s most prolific inventor. Memjet developed printers with fixed multi-nozzle printheads and promised to be the next big thing in printing. Then the wheels seemed to fall off the cart.
To quote Wikipedia: “In March 2012, the George Kaiser Family Foundation (principal investor in Memjet) filed a lawsuit against Silverbrook and Silverbrook Research, alleging fraud and seeking to gain control of the Memjet patent portfolio, numbering over 4,000 patents. Silverbrook’s response to the lawsuit characterized it as ‘part of a hardball commercial negotiation.’ In May 2012, a settlement was announced under which Memjet acquired control of the technology and Kia Silverbrook remained a special advisor to Memjet. All legal claims were withdrawn. Then Photo Imaging News reported that during Drupa (2012), we learned that one reason Memjet discontinued its development of printers for photo-imaging applications was because paper development to handle the printing speed was not moving fast enough.”