This past summer, I received an e-mail from a marketer working with the Eastman Kodak Co., informing me about a suite of products the imaging company had put together specifically for the real estate professional. I ignored the e-mail.
The young intern from the marketing firm, who was given the tedious task of trying to get the media interested in the Kodak products, was dutifully persistent and sent me a follow-up note. This one got my attention. I occasionally feature in this column new technology products, software or Internet programs, so why shouldn’t I look at hardware as well. I decided to talk with the folks from Kodak.
"Obviously, Kodak has been in the imaging market for a very long time, primarily in the consumer and commercial printing space, but after looking at our portfolio of products and solutions from a small-office/home-office perspective, we targeted that market," explained Veneeta Eason, Kodak’s worldwide business development manager.
Once Kodak entered the small-office market, it also began looking closely at a subset of that group: real estate brokerage firms.
Just as a coincidence, about two years ago I needed a new digital camera and went into an electronics superstore. I came out with a Kodak. So, I knew they had a good, modern product. I also understood Kodak had entered the printer market and had been making considerable headway against the Hewlett-Packards and Canons of the world.
Kodak now owns 5 percent of the inkjet market in the United States and 15 percent in the United Kingdom, Eason told me.
Selling inkjets is a cutthroat business, but Kodak entered the fight with a pretty good game plan: low-cost replacement cartridges. Anyone who uses an inkjet printer regularly knows how expensive it is to replace these cartridges, so when Kodak began offering a replacement black cartridge for under $10 and the color cartridge for $16.99, it got the attention of economically savvy buyers.
Mark Walser, Kodak’s business development manager who was in on my phone call to Eason, told me something I didn’t know. If, as a real estate broker, you print up your own brochures and leave them someplace where they will sit in direct sunshine, the print will fade; and if there is rain or humidity, there’s a chance the ink will run.
But Kodak uniquely uses pigment-based inks, not dye-based inks, so your brochures will not fade and even if they get wet — the ink is water-resistant, so it is designed not to run.
The package of products Kodak put together for a real estate office consists of five items: a small camera with a wide-angle lens that can make tight quarters look spacious; a pocket digital video camera for creating instant virtual tours; digital (picture) frames with built-in Wi-Fi capability; all-in-one printers (copy, scan and fax); and a dedicated scanner for big, multipage projects.
This all sounded good, but I needed to test some of these products. Since I’m not a broker, it wouldn’t do me any good to handle the offerings, so I decided to let a couple of my readers, who are brokers, play with the Kodak products.
I had a Kodak M580 camera sent to Rod Weaver, managing director of Crye-Leike Realtors in Madison, Ala.
In his report to me, Weaver said, "I had a couple of listings and once I got the camera, I used it to do the photography. The main thing for me was the wide-angle, which was awesome. What I do is get in one corner of a room and try to capture it wall-to-wall. Most point-and-shoot cameras don’t have a large wide-angle lens to capture it all. The Kodak 580 was able to capture the room wall-to-wall."
Weaver added one other commendation: "What I really loved about the camera was that the software to download or file-share is built into it. For my business, I have a computer at home; my assistant at the office has a computer; and I have a whole team working for me. There are multiple computers. When I plug the camera into a computer, the software is already there — I don’t have to worry about a disc (loading a program). It makes it real easy."
An associate of Weaver’s, Dan Griess, general manager of the Chattanooga, Tenn., region for Crye-Leike Realtors, tried out the Kodak Zi8, a pocket digital video camera.
"I’ve got a Droid and this was smaller," said Griess. "This was easy to use. It being small, my hand would shake a bit, but it has image stabilization."
The two uses that he sees for this product are creating virtual tours and previews.
"Since the camera has a YouTube link, you could (record) a property (video) and create YouTube tours," said Griess. "We also do previews a lot — this would be very helpful, as we could just send someone a streaming file."
Griess did, however, have two criticisms. The first is that to do really anything with the product one needs to buy a bigger memory card; and secondly, you need to download some software.
The really good fun was when Griess went to a broker networking meeting and whipped out his pocket gizmo, one-upping everyone on the next great technology.
I also received a Kodak product to try out — it was the ESP Office 6150 all-in-one inkjet printer.
Here’s my report. Once I received the product, things started off badly. I couldn’t get the CD program to function, which was actually a problem with my computer and not the CD, so I decided to download the software from the Kodak site. Well, that didn’t work either.
My next shot was the technical assistance line, which transferred me to a tech aide in Delhi, India, who was absolutely fabulous and got me hooked up with no further problems.
The 6150 was smaller than my old all-in-one inkjet, which I liked. And all functions were good. The true test would have been to print a brochure, but I’m not a broker so that was not going to happen. However, I came up with a workable alternative.
My wife has been taking family photos upon family photos but not printing any of them. I said, "Here’s the new printer — go for it." I went downstairs to read a book and she stepped into the breach, knocking out at least two dozen family photos.
She had a "heckuva" good time and gave the new printer a rating of two thumbs up.