Innovation That Matters

Pocket-sized Polaroid printer

Fashion & Beauty

More than half a century ago, the Polaroid camera produced the world’s first instant printed images, spitting out photos just a minute after they were taken. And while today’s cell phones and digital cameras take snap shots that can be transmitted to other phones or computers instantly, people still have an old-fashioned desire to hold printed copies of their snapshots in their hands. Proof: one of the biggest buzz-generating products to come out of this year’s Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show was a printer about the size of a deck of cards that can create 2×3 inch photos in under a minute. The printer is the result of a collaboration between Polaroid and Zink, another US firm that developed the device’s inkless printing technology. With a store-delivery date slated for this fall, the Digital Instant Mobile Photo Printer can be linked up via Bluetooth or USB to other portable media such as cell phones and digital cameras—all for a retail price of USD 150, plus USD 4 for a 10-pack of paper. Granted, the instant mobile printer may not be as disruptive as the iPhone, but it does show creative entrepreneurs how an older company can neatly reinvent itself, even if its products have long been technologically leap-frogged. Polaroid’s pocket-sized printer harks back to the company’s original breakthrough, making media instantly available for sharing. It was an idea that spawned a small-scale social revolution as millions devised innovative uses for the product: everything from instant photos of wedding receptions to the identification-card making devices used by organizations and governments. No doubt people will devise new uses for Polaroid’s minuscule printer. But the real lesson here is that there’s a wealth of opportunity to be mined in old ideas, provided you have the creativity and the capital required to reinvent them.



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