A year ago, when Kodak made a risky bet on entering the $50 billion consumer printer business, Chief Executive Antonio Perez warned that if the company didn’t launch its first inkjet printers correctly, the strategy of selling top quality printers and half-price ink would fail. Kodak accomplished what it was aiming for, and a little more. It sold 520,000 of the machines last year, 20,000 over its target. It cost Perez more than he had expected. The incumbents trimmed some prices, forcing Perez to spend $50 million more on marketing than he had planned. Finally, during the last four months of 2007, sales really took off as customers began to understand Kodak’s pitch. Perez predicts he’ll sell two to three times as many printers this year. “We were 20 years late to get into this market, but we have a strong value proposition,” he told me. He also hinted at more to come. This year, Kodak plans on bringing the same kind of technology and business model disruptions to the commercial printer industry, with new offerings based on its continuous-spray technology. At this rate, Perez may actually save an American business icon which just a few years ago seemed to destined to land on the scrap heap of history.
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