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How should electronics companies sell the LED light bulb?

How should electronics companies sell the LED light bulb?

Posting in Energy

The LED light bulb: attractive because it's better, or alluring because it's technological? A look at how Samsung positions its new $20 models.

"A light bulb is no longer just a light bulb. It’s a digital technology made up of LED chips, drivers and electronics."

That's according to Kevin Dexter, senior vice president of home appliances at Samsung, who used the line in a press release this morning touting the Korean company's new lineup of LED bulbs.

The problem? Most people just want a light bulb to work.

On; off. That's it. (OK -- maybe a low price, too.)

In his statement, Dexter is trying to show big a player the consumer electronics giant expects to be in the burgeoning LED lighting market, and in that sense, he's done his job well. But the many technological innovations that can be had with LED bulbs -- fine-tuned hues, wireless connectivity, even speaker capability -- are likely to overwhelm the average consumer.

They just want to replace their light bulbs and move on with life. On; off.

Samsung's new lineup -- its A19 incandescent/fluorescent replacement (pictured at right), the dimmable, track-lighting-ready PAR halogen replacement and the MR16 bulb -- are the next step in the LED race (to the top, technologically; to the bottom, margin-wise).

They are expectedly more powerful, more energy-efficient and longer-lasting than their predecessors. They are also more inexpensive, starting around $20 a bulb. (A small fortune for a light bulb, yes, but far cheaper than they were just one year ago. Expect the price to keep plummeting.)

But what strikes me is how companies like Samsung -- electronics titans who are used to selling coveted gadgets based on allure and technical prowess -- will sell the lowly light bulb, a product that few want to think about and even fewer want to complicate. (And you thought appliances were boring.)

For now, Samsung's taking the technical tack, which may just be an effort to court early adopters who want to know all of the specifications of their $20 digital bulb. It's no coincidence that Samsung is drawing a line between its budget-busting, market-leading HDTVs and its new light bulbs.

What will be interesting is waiting for that crucial moment that Samsung and its rivals no longer talk about the digitization of the bulbs, just the light -- signaling that the LED bulb is moving into the mainstream.

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure