Craig Ferguson notwithstanding (see below), you can't believe everything you read on blogs. The following, for example, is a mixture of educated guesses, speculation, analysis, reading between the lines, and forecasting. All or some of it might turn out to be right. You know the alternative. I'm doin' the best I can.
First guess: the smattering of news you've seen about this on the internet recently is because Kodak's attorneys just locked the last patent down and gave PR the go-ahead to spread the news.
Second, starting in 2008, virtually every sensor maker in the world will be paying Rochester's Great Yellow Father a licensing fee (or, more likely, another licensing fee) for every sensor they make.
Third, this is the biggest news in digital photography of this season. "Biggest" as in "most significant." In several seasons, in fact.
Fourth, the idea is simple, and brilliant—brilliantly simple, in fact. One of those smack your forehead and say duh, why'n't I think of that?!? ideas.
What is it? It doesn't have a name yet (I even asked). It was invented by Kodak's John Compton and John Hamilton, although evidently they're too modest to call it the Compton-Hamilton Array. Call it Kodak's Transparent Array. (I just coined that; I'm always doing that. Better not quote me.) The idea is that since digital sensors have so many photosites/pixels now, perhaps not 100% of them need to be used to pick up color information. In the Bayer Array (the industry-wide standard), half the photosite lenses are dyed (filtered) green, and the other half are split between red and blue. But just as with a colored filter on your old black-and-white camera, the color filtering cuts down drastically on light transmission (remember how you used to have to add another two stops to your spotmeter reading whenever you made like Robert Adams and slapped that green filter on the ol' view camera? Sure you do). So, Kodak reasoned, why not use half the pixels to pick up color information and just not filter the other half at all?
Brilliant. Simple. But patentable.
In the Semitransparent Array, half the photosites/pixels are not filtered/dyed at all, and the other half are split in the old 2-green, 1-red, 1-blue ratio.
The result is an array that is one to two stops more sensitive to light. It will presumably yield less real color information that the old Bayer algorithms, but that's not so important now that almost all sensors have so many millions of photosites (quite a different situation from when the Bayer Array was devised in the mid 1970s, or with early digicams when "a megapixel" was a huge deal. Ancient history, eh?) (Please note also that this has nothing to do with how "colorful" your images will look. How the information is interpolated is still the determinant of that.) Counterbalancing that loss is a higher capture of real detail, in the form of a true luminance channel, and a true increase in light sensitivity.
That jump in light sensitivity is a big jump, too. It will mean that the same quality you get from your digicam and cameraphone at ISO 200 will be available at ISO 800. And it will mean that the quality you get from your DSLR at ISO 400 now, you will be able to achieve at ISO 800, with better real detail. (I'm assuming here that DSLR sensors are already optimized for high sensitivity, and that they represent the "one stop" end of the quoted "one to two stop" range of sensitivity improvements Kodak's press release touts. I could be wrong.)
Possible outcomes of all this: a) All digital imaging devices are in for a quantum jump in performance, and soon. b) Fuji or somebody has already done something similar but didn't protect the idea with patents adequately, and we'll see a roiling of the surface waters as Titanic legal battles go on under the surface. c) Some big company or other that already has good high-ISO-sensitive sensors could decide to soldier on with the Bayer Array and we'll see supremacy battles waged. d) Kodak gets added revenue of the best possible sort: a leetle bitty dose of money for every sensor made anywhere. Could be worse. Could be workin'.
One thing's certain. This is potentially very, very big.