One thing any new industry needs to do is beware of its own hype.
I still remember, almost 20 years ago now, sitting in on the launch of a tablet PC called Momenta. I was just then finishing a book for New Riders to be called “A Guide to Field Computing,” all about hand-held computers and terminals that could collect, transmit and calculate outside. I had reason to believe.
But I didn’t believe. Yes, they had big-time backing, big names in the executive suite. Yes, the press release was slick, glossy and over-sized. Yes, the shrimp at the press launch were fat and succulent. But I’d once been in on a press fete like this myself, back in 1984, launching a home banking-and-shopping product called The Promise that died before the shrimp spoiled.
“Deja vu all over again” is a useful perspective to have right now as we see the hype machine turning for New Energy Technologies Inc. (NENE) and their SolarWindow.
First launched at a Tampa event in September a SolarWindow is sprayed onto a polymer backing , and its backers claim it can produce electricity on any surface, from any source – even the indoor light can be recycled.
The company’s hype has doubled its stock price in three months and the idea itself is logical. But in 2011, you are probably better off moving your clients toward more conventional window adhesives that can cut heating-and-cooling costs, not turn your home into a power plant.
Fact is there are reasons to be skeptical about New Energy Technologies Inc.. (NENE)
This is still a year away from the market.
While savings could be substantial, we know nothing about costs.
What about durability?
Can manufacturing be scaled?
There are competitors.
What about efficiency? How does a property owner make the numbers work?
We know, in the long run, how this story ends. Someone is going to get this right. Who and when are open to question. After all, tablet PCs are all the rage these days, and everyone has what I called a “field computer” back in the day.
So color me skeptical about NENE. But this is the direction the world is going in, make no mistake.
Someday every window will be a solar window. Maybe not today, but soon. Don’t let the fate of one company determine your attitude about the future, but don’t get wedded to any single vendor, either. It’s way too early for that.
Dana Blankenhorn first covered the energy industries in 1978 with the Houston Business Journal. He returned last month after a short 29 year hiatus because it’s the best business story of our time. In between he covered PCs, the Internet, e-commerce, open source, the Internet of Things and Moore’s Law. It’s the application of the last to harvesting the energy all around us he’s most excited about. He lives in Atlanta.
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