Have you noticed the corporate pitches that compare their products to iPhones or iPads to try and force the feeling that they are “like Apple”? Bill Ford just pitched the Ford electric car in this manner. If Apple is the gold standard, the question becomes, what solar power company is closest to being just like Apple? I think the answer is none, at least not yet.

The Apple Model

Apple has a design culture that attracts design professionals to their product. They also have a completely vertical integrated product where their case, graphical user interface (GUI), input devices, high resolution screen and system packaging is all designed around the Apple culture. They have their own proprietary operating system and a steady stream of income from content sales off iTunes.

An analogy to some of Apple’s business strategy might be solar industry business plans, however these are innovations which typically are not unique or proprietary. An example is when SunEdison (now owned by MEMC NYSE:WFR ) institutionalized third party financing. Lots of companies have followed suit.

Solar Companies Today

Grid tied photovoltaics (PV) aspires to be a “set-it-and-forget-it” kind of product, not needing the interaction of a GUI and operating system. Smart grid integration could enable PV to have more of an operating system value proposition, but that hasn’t happened yet.

As far as design, I don’t think there is a company that comes to the solar professionals mind when considering who is first-in-class with design. Sunpower (NASD: SPWRA) has the black background module to match their technological improvements in back contact grids along with the highest power module efficiency. Some thin film PVs are better than others at being monolithic black and not fading over time, but these aren’t great design features. Flexible thin film amorphous silicon like UniSolar (NASDAQ: ENER) can be seen as looking different from glass based PV modules with aluminum frames and structures, but possibly due to lower efficiencies have not created a robust market. Design features will someday separate specific companies within the solar industry, but that hasn’t happened yet.

source: altenergystocks

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