For the second time in a few months, Kodak has taken a measure of Fuji with the announcement that it had struck a deal with Ritz Camera to replace approximately 1,100 Fuji Printpix kiosks with the brand new Kodak G4 Picture Kiosk.
According to Rich Tranchida, Ritz executive vice president, the deployment of one G4 to each Ritz Camera store was completed by the end of Novemberóready for the holiday rush.
Why the change? Rich said that the chain had been using the Printpix machines for over five years and the new technology of the G4 fulfilled Ritz's need to be able to offer their customers a print-in-seconds solution. "We have to stay ahead of the curve," he said.
Some months ago Kodak cut a deal with Walgreens to replace about 1,100 of its Printpix units. That was a big feather in Kodak's cap in its competitive struggle with Fuji, but Walgreens does not allow its suppliers to make any announcements on its behalf, so Kodak was unable to make PR hay out of its success. The deal was reported in PTN's September 2005 issue. However, Ritz was more than happy to let Kodak make a formal announcement of its new tie, and the story was carried on national news wires.
Ritz has long been allied with Fuji and its products. The chain currently has installed over 800 Fuji Frontier digital minilabs which, according to Rich, "is the greatest machine." Asked if the switch to Kodak was a signal that the Ritz-Fuji relationship was slipping, Rich said, "No. This was not a divorce-marriage situation."
A spokesman for Fuji, Adam Yates, director of corporate communications, said, "We are not free to comment on our customer relationships. The Printpix is a product we continue to support."
The Kodak-Ritz deal comes at a critical time for Kodak as it is no doubt loading its cannon for an upcoming duel with HP, which is expected to be announcing its own kiosk solution at PMA next month and could be a formidable opponent.
Rich said that they looked at many competitive units before deciding on the G4. Was HP one of them? "Yes," he said, "but it was many months ago, and HP did not yet have an operating system that was ready for shipment."
How does a firm dispose of 1,100 pieces of old equipment? According to Rich, they just get loaded onto trucks and hauled away.
Ritz will retain the same per-print retail price of between .25 and .35 cents per 4x6, depending on the store, for the G4 dye-sub print as it had for the Printpix, which used Fuji's proprietary Thermo-Autochrome paper.
The G4 was formerly introduced to the trade in November, and the Ritz installation is its first. It replaces the G3 line, which carried the tried-and-true name of Picture Maker, a long-standing marketing umbrella for a full range of Kodak in-store image solution products. The new G4 series of products take on the title of Picture Kiosk.
The speed of the system, at eight seconds per print, was especially attractive to Ritz, according to Rich Tranchida. Kodak claims it is 35% faster than previous models.
The G4 supports all of the digital media formats (memory cards, USB, CD/DVD) and can handle wireless printing via Bluetooth and infrared technology.
Using 6-inch roll paper, the G4 outputs prints of 4x6, 5x7, and 6x8. The dye-sub prints are coated with Xtralife, claimed by Kodak to provide extra protection against stains, spills, and fingerprints.