>> Thursday, May 3, 2007
Photo CD is an image format that never was very popular, despite being relatively cheap and offering great results. I know Photo CD mainly because it is a playable format on my CD-i player, but ofcourse it was a much broader format for Kodak, and CD-i was just one system it oculd be played on. The discs were compatible with Windows and Mac as well, and the encoding made the discs proprietary in format for Kodak. You can criticize Kodak for this, but thanks to this road Kodak maintained control over the format; it prevented Photo CD from being hijacked and corrupted by other firms.
From the start to the end Photo CD was meant to archive your images/photos on CD in different resolutions, and it was accessible from loads of applications. CD-i was just one application! Only in the USA you had over 140 producers of Photo CD (mainly photo processing labs). Maybe that's the first mistake of Kodak: selling the technology in the first place!
Without a doubt there a lot of distractors of Photo CD as well. Concerns about it being slow, low-res and wrong sizes are legitimate, but does it weigh against the pros it has?
Just as with other image technologies, Kodak kept on improving Photo CD by sending updates with the disc. This is how Photo CD improved drastically over the years, but it caused a lot of complains from companies who were producing Photo CD's that they had to invest a lot of money to keep on track with the updated Photo CD system. The bad side of this was probably that Kodak released the first version of Photo CD as version 0.9: This was a nearly complete system but in beta-status nonetheless.
Kodak made a few smart moves with Photo CD as well, like creating a consistent scanning technology of great quality (comparible with commercial usage), it can deliver a large number of scans and it was cheap. Photo Cd was very affordable for the consumer who was interested in digital scans. One Photo CD scan from a 35mm film only costed one dollar. Most labs created a full disc without any extra charges.
But, what Kodak did wrong with Photo CD was keeping the format away from image writers. I can understand the reason why they did this, but if you think about it, this was not a good idea. If the Image Pac was publicly available and we would have been allowed to encode images ourselves, then the format would be dominant these days. But now instead it's one of the obscure formats only supported by Photoshop and a few others.
One of the other blunders Kodak made with Photo CD was their decision to stop making the system (and selling it to third companies). True, they didn't really stop producing it, but they didn't bundle it anymore as a complete workstation. But without bundling the system, they made it difficult for the companies that bought the original systems to buy new ones and supplement their existing systems.
This was a real mistake because Photo CD has been an overwhelming success, especially to buyers of the system. But also Kodak should have been pretty happy with the results of Photo CD. The laboratories that were creating Photo CD's were ever growing. As Kodak was the only supplier of blanc Photo CD (while very overpriced!) the profit was over 30% according to an anonymous Kodak source. We're talking about 1992 when this was the case.
So actually Kodak pulled the plug from Photo CD and prevented it from getting the most popular image technology.
Kodak entered a venture with Microsoft to produce a new, consumer-oriented system called FlashPix. This was the first replacement of Photo CD. It failed miserably because it left out the commercial side of it. No effort was put into the technology to make it popular to the public, and the creative professional photographer. Without this market, FlashPix was doomed.
The latest effort by Kodak to make a photo/image disc format is Picture CD. This is a highly consumer-orientated system created in conjunction with Intel. Picture CD now is also compatible with most DVD players thanks to its license of the JPEG format. It's possible with Picture CD, as with Photo CD, to take a away your images to a laboratory and they will produce a disc with the images on it. Although nowadays, everyone will create it by themselves, as it's just a collection of JPEG files. What isn't possible is for the Picture CD to match the quality and diversity of the original Photo CD Image Pac. FlashPix couldn't do it, and Picture CD can't do it either. Probaly because both image technologies are aimed at consumers. Consumers typically don't care about the finer points of image quality.
Thanks to: Creative Pro