What solar panels have in common with your tablet is a ruinous price war that is driving American companies to the wall, while consumers benefit.
This is particularly true in the area of Solid State Drives, or SSDs, the chip-based storage devices that tablets and phones use to store data.
While the market is growing, and SSDs are actually taking major hunks of market share from makers of fixed hard disk drives, because SSDs are more rugged, faster, and getting to be just as inexpensive, this is not providing a world of opportunity for investors.
Quite the contrary.
OCZ Technology (OCZ) has delayed its financial filings, and is barely holding over the stock market's "Mendoza Line" of $1/share. Micron (MU), which sells SSD assemblies under the Crucial label, hasn't seen double-digits since 2011 and is well under $6 currently, although some analysts still hold out hope. Intel (INTC) also gapped down again today, down almost 25% from its May highs of near $29/share.
For consumers, by contrast, it's happy days. As DealNews.com reports you can now buy a 256 GB SSD on the open market for a little over $100. Once they hit that price for a 512 GB drive, the current hard drive standard, what reason would anyone have not to switch to chips?
This is just what happened in solar panels over the last year. Competition forced prices down, profits were squeezed, and investors howled. But eventually lower prices open up new markets, and while that doesn't make JA Solar (JASO) a buy, it does mean that the days of solar power competing head-to-head with grid power and winning are getting closer.
Just as SSDs will soon compete head-to-head with hard drives, and win. In both these segments you hold onto your money until "crossover" is reached - grid parity for solar panels, hard drive parity for SSDs. And then you buy.
Disclosure: I am long INTC.