200802036_1.jpgPolaroid was always a leader in instant photography; a popular brand among professionals, artists, and amateurs alike! They made invented the notion of instant photography almost a century ago. But now the company that made instant photography famous is shutting down its film manufacturing lines.

The Waltham, Massachusetts-based Polaroid Corp. is closing the factories located in the United States, Mexico, and the Netherlands, that manufacture its famous instant print film, by the end of the quarter. Around 150 jobs will be eliminated during the closures. A significant contrast to the 15,000 employees Polaroid once employed in its plants. “The Norwood plant is shutting down, and we will soon be winding down activities at the Waltham facility as well,” said Kyle MacDonald, senior vice president of Polaroid’s instant photography business segment.

According to Tom Beaudoin, Polaroid chief operating officer, the company would still continue its operation in Concord headquarters and in Waltham. About 150 employees ranging from administrative to executive positions will be kept to continue its operations that have shifted to flat-panel TVs and digital photography accessories. “We’ll continue to have a strong presence in Massachusetts for the next 30 or 40 years,” said Beaudoin to reduce fears the company was in trouble.

Polaroid Corp. was once considered one the leading industrial companies during the 1970′s due to its “instant photo” products and employed 15,000 in Massachusetts alone. With the introduction of the SX-70 camera, the company had cemented itself into the global photography culture. However, trouble lurked during the late 1980′s. Hostile takeovers and bad investments were made on products that didn’t perform as hoped. Ironically the company that invented instant photography was slow to realize the potential, and capitalize on the emergence of digital cameras. For years Polaroid focused on killing innovation and competition, such as Kodak’s superior instant film introduced in the early 80′s, instead on exploiting technology itself and becoming a leader in the digital revolution. Polaroid became the only survivor of a market that consumers were leaving, and was forced to file bankruptcy in 2001. The remaining assets of the company bought in 2005 by a privately held company. The company founded by Edwin Land was gone forever!

Beaudoin indicated that the company will allow its instant photography technology to be licensed. However, the company will only produce film that will last into next year. If no one licenses Polaroid’s instant film, users are going to have to abandon their Polaroid products, probably in favor of digital cameras. Polaroid will, however, continue its focus on photography through their latest products called ZINK, a pocket-sized instant digital printer that features Zero Ink Printing Technology and Freescape, a digital hub that records, manages, shares, and stores digital media without a monthly fee.

“Personal digital media collections are growing at exponential rates, and consumers spend most of their time experiencing media on a computer monitor or tiny LCD screen,” explains Michael London, CEO of Polaroid. “Polaroid’s new innovations put consumers back in control of their digital media, making it sharable however they choose.”

Let’s hope Polaroid’s new directions prevent them from going the route of Bell & Howell.