The Polaroid Socialmatic being hailed as the Instagram Camera

The Polaroid Socialmatic camera aka Instagram Camera is an actual thing that will be heading to NZ shores in time for Christmas.  Yes you can get those vintage looks sent directly to your Instagram, Facebook and other social accounts by taking an actual photo with an actual camera and then still be able to print out the image on a little 2″x3″..actual.

Along with the Polaroid Socialmatic camera aka Instagram Camera, Polaroid is also releasing the Cube a direct competitor to GoPro. This little camera has some serious cute factor and while spec wise its not as powerful as the GoPro it takes 1080p and 720p wide angle video respectively, structurally sound, 90mins of recording, supports up to 32g and its small size means it can be mounted on anything from your helmet to the golf club without being overly intrusive and the price of $99 USD a very attractive alternative.

The Cube Polaroids alternative to the GoPro at just $99USD
The Cube Polaroids alternative to the GoPro at just $99USD

Both products are a strong signal that Polaroid is looking to claim back its once long ago held title of being ‘THE’ camera to own, after suffering setbacks along the years.

The Polaroid company itself has a fascinating history and serves as a warning to all technology companies and of late its story is being used as a warning to current household name Apple Inc.  Polaroid began in 1937 where it was considered the “apple’ of its time. Polaroids innovation included infrared night viewing devices during WWII, polarizing products which included 3D movies and then later the Instant Camera which spearheaded itself into becoming a household name.  While the camera itself was reasonably priced, Polaroid made majority of its income through its companion product instant film, which enabled users to take a photo and then instantly have a physical image printed within minutes directly from the camera.

The company itself stayed ahead of the technology game by adopting a mantra its CEO and founder used

“Do not undertake the program unless the goal is manifestly important and its achievement nearly impossible.  Do not do anything that anyone else can do readily”.

In 1977 Polaroid began production of Polavision a film for motion picture.  Polavision had many issues and the commercial viability of the product was abysmal.  And as the 80’s hit the emergence of VHS began to claim the market instead. Then  in 1981 Sony developed the first ‘digital’ camera.  While it wasn’t the instant ground breaking technology at the time and as a commercial product would be consider a failure, the then current CEO of Polaroid decided the future lay in digital imaging, so in 1982 development began and by the beginning of the 90s over 40% of Polaroids R&D budget was being consumed by digital technology.

Unfortunately Polaroid while fantastic in making technological advances in its own lab called the Microelectronics Lab (now belonging to MIT), business wise it still held onto the old format.  Digital images did not require printing so film wasn’t required.  And Polaroid made money from its film.  Going digital meant no profits to Polaroid management.  So after years of internal arguing Polaroid launched its first digital camera in 1996.  But Polaroid weren’t sure how to market this new technology and naturally it failed.  The company then focused on short term goals, sticking to what it knew and kind of pushed the digital technology to the side, reducing investment in R&D.  What Polaroid failed to see was the advancement of the household computer which provided a type of instant photo.  Home computers provided an avenue which allowed users to print images to a printer in any size users wanted, store images without taking up much space in a household and all users had to do was plug in their digital cameras.  Within a two years customers ditched the Polaroid Instant camera and its expensive Polaroid film in favour for digital cameras.  Shares went from $60USD in 1997 to 28cents in 2001.  Polaroid was declared bankrupt and the business was broken up and sold.

From 2001 the Polaroid brand was licensed to other products up until 2009 when Polaroid won US Bankruptcy Court approval to be sold to a joint venture of Hilco Consumer Capital LP.   And its from here that life begins to spring into Polaroid as fashion trends turn to vintage looks and nostalgia.  Polaroid released in 2009  a 5 megapixel digital camera with a Zink printer a tiny little printer that printed out images similar to those found in photobooths.  Then in 2011 Polaroid released a Instant mobile printer that produced 3″x4″ prints co designed by Lady gaga that allowed users to print directly from a mobile phone or digital camera. 2012 saw the introduction of a google powered smart camera that mashed a media player with a camera and a printer.  Also allowing users to download apps from Google Play, check their email and browse the web.  in 2013 Polaroid released IP security camera line that focused on easy installation, user friendly operation and could be managed & viewed by your smartphone.  Now in 2014 Polaroid has ventured into the competitive imaging world by going head on with its competitors by introducing the ‘Cube’ and being one of the first tech companies to directly integrate the power of social media with a physical product.

While its hard to predict whether this will save the Polaroid brand, its a safe bet to say that it will at least get their name heard…whether the name stays around will be up to the company’s ability to keep integrating, evolving and mashing its core products with new technology.

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