What does it take to drive a market to high growth in the middle of a recession? Being a drop-in substitute for an existing product helps. Having a feature that no other technology can do helps, too. A government mandate also helps. If all three happen at the same time? Then the odds improve that strong growth will happen. That’s what’s happening in the LED replacement bulb market, as described in our recent report.
Contrary to what you might think, the lighting market has never been completely static. There is a wide range of options for light sources, electronic drivers, and fixture designs, and they continue to evolve. But the sockets themselves are slow to change, since they involve network effects, a form of chicken-and-egg problem. That’s where the drop-in substitute comes in. LED replacement bulb are selling today as substitutes for certain high-value applications.
What high-value applications? That’s where the unique feature comes in. LED bulbs can’t compete with compact fluorescent bulbs for general ambient lighting. But for directional lighting, LED bulbs are superior for controllability, dimmability, and a choice of color temperatures.
Why not use the existing technology? The government mandate requires that all bulbs achieve a certain efficacy over a coming phase-in period. While this doesn’t ban incandescent bulbs outright, it does price ordinary incandescent bulbs above more efficient CFL and LED bulbs. A perfect convergence.
By the way, the terminology in this area can be confusing. The figure shows how the LED replacement bulbs fit into conventional fixtures to complete a luminaire. The eventual goal is to migrate to complete designs where the LEDs are integrated into the luminaire from the get go. (See our market report on LED luminaires.)