He compares the switch from incandescent lamps to LED lights to the transition from analog to digital computing. Bijlsma argues that this change is bound to happen sooner or later, which means that the earlier companies get ready, the better their chances to seize this market.
"Philips has the whole value chain," Bijlsma declares with a confident gleam in his eyes. "If we cannot do it, who can do it?"
Having just finished a four-hour mammoth conference directly after returning from an overseas business trip, Bijlsma continues to analyze the Philips strategy. In the past the company only catered to the light bulb market, but did not have a foot in the consumer lighting market. Now is the best opportunity to move in, he argues.
LED technology allows integrating the light source with the fixture, opening up many new design opportunities. Living Colors, for instance, a novel LED lamp that Philips released last year, has a range of 16 million possible colors that can be readily changed, adjusted in intensity, and dimmed via a dial remote control. Half a year after the lamp, which comes with a price tag of 150 euros, hit the market, more than 1 million had been sold.
From Light to Delight
With its entry into LED lighting, Philips developed many new applications that turn light into more than a mere illuminant.
Light is no longer limited to brightening our surroundings. Intelligent lighting also serves many other functions – playing important roles in medical therapy and diagnostics, creating ambiances, and marketing cities.
Besides physicists with knowledge of optoelectronics, experts from many different fields work at the Philips Industrial Design Center, including psychologists, anthropologists and social scientists, all doing research on people's psychological and biological needs as they relate to lighting.
A survey in Germany, for instance, revealed that 79 percent of German teachers retire early because of job exhaustion. Therefore, Philips designed a special LED lamp for classrooms and offices that helps reduce teachers' fatigue.
Philips has designed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment with its own LED lighting that makes patients feel more at ease during medical examinations. The company has even designed a lamp that changes hues to match any color you show its built-in sensor.
"Lighting will become a delighting people business," Zomer predicts with a chuckle.
With Philips churning out one new LED application after another, the company will probably soon be better known as a dominant maker of popular and trendy products than as a lighting manufacturer.
Translated from the Chinese by Susanne Ganz
Philips Company Profile
In 1891, by brothers Anton and Gerard Philips as an exclusive maker of incandescent light bulbs
CEO: Gerard Kleisterlee
Headquarters: Eindhoven, Netherlands
2008 revenue: 26.5 billion euros (including 7.1 billion euros from Lighting Division)
Worldwide workforce: 116,000 employees (including 57,000 in the lighting business)
Business Divisions: Lighting devices (No. 1 worldwide), healthcare (No.1 worldwide) and consumer electronics
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