With Old Name and New Tools, Polaroid Aims For a Comeback

WASHINGTON, January 4 (RIA Novosti) – Polaroid, the legendary American camera-maker whose brand name became synonymous with instant print photography, unveiled Thursday a new tablet computer for kids, its latest move in a drive to translate past laurels into future profits – and reclaim a place among top innovators.

“Throughout our 75 year history, we’ve been known for creating innovative and easy-to-use products that are fun for all ages,” Scott Hardy, Polaroid’s president and chief executive, said in a statement unveiling the new tablet for children.

The announcement came a day after Polaroid trumpeted plans to open a small network of retail shops, branded jointly with Fotobar, where consumers using the digital images stored in their mobile devices can create traditional photo prints and artwork – and where Polaroid can showcase its other products.

In a world where the cloud, the paperless office and seemingly limitless digital data on pocket devices rule, Polaroid is gambling that people still want to separate one image from all others, print it, touch it, frame it and see it nearby without having to push a button or swipe a screen, industry experts said.

“Polaroid is hoping that people have a desire for the revival of physical photos,” Josh Wolford, a writer for the tech news website WebProNews, affirmed in a story posted Wednesday.

While Polaroid has said its Fotobar stores will help people release their “trapped” digital photos and display them at home or work as art, some skeptics have cautioned that the new Polaroid-Fotobar outlets, to be opened initially in a handful of major US cities, will need to be doubly innovative to make up for Polaroid’s late arrival to the digital printing game.

“My advice? Make it a real bar or cafe,” tweeted photographer Patricia Cich Lee.

“We don’t want to go out unless we have to or there’s a community feel. We have accounts on other fab services that will happily print our Instagrams and Facebook photos,” Lee said, referring to online tools including Moo, Shutterfly and Printstagram, services that ship users’ prints of their digital photos.

From 1948 until near the end of the 20th century, Polaroid and its signature instant-picture camera were a popular symbol of inventiveness in the US photography industry. But the arrival of digital photography and camera phones appeared to have overwhelmed the old firm, which filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

It was reorganized under new owners, only to file for bankruptcy again in 2008. But two years later, a new Polaroid partnered with pop performer Lady Gaga, who was announced as the “new face” of the firm, and it has since rolled out a range of new instant cameras as well as digital still and video devices and other products designed to appeal to a younger generation.

While the Polaroid kids tablet is currently being sold online and on stores, customers will have to wait a bit longer to get the full Fotobar experience.

The first retail store is slated to open this February in Delray Beach, Florida with additional store openings scheduled in New York, Las Vegas and Boston.


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