This year, we saw Intel, IBM, LG and others jump into the solar market, following a path blazed by Applied Materials two years ago. Cisco, Freescale and several startups like GainSpan are busy porting wireless chips and equipment originally designed for consumer electronics and computers into smart meters and energy efficient appliances. WiMax, the wireless broadband protocol, is coming to connect homes and utilities. What will the computer world colonize next? Probably lighting. Solid state light sources such as LEDs, plasma lights and OLEDs are expected to become popular over the next five to ten years as the price declines and mass manufacturing cranks up. Right now, LEDs are primarily made by the large lighting subsidiaries of conglomerates, like Philips Lighting. The nature of the industry and the technology, however, is opening the door to PC-centric companies. Foundries, which make computer chips for people who don't want to own their own factories, will likely enter lighting. Although LEDs are technically chips, the process and chemistry are different than what you need to make computer chips. Still, TSMC, the world's biggest foundry for silicon chips, is tinkering with strategies to serve as a factory-for-hire for LED designers. Applied Materials, meanwhile, is examining whether it should make equipment to produce OLED lights, which are thin and somewhat flexible. The OLED process is similar to the thin-film solar process, which in turn is similar to the process for making LCD TVs. (Applied also has a boatload of equipment that can be used to make regular LEDs.) And then you have companies like HID Laboratories that will use IT technologies to control and dim high-intensity discharge lights. Panasonic is putting automated light and air conditioner controls in green homes in Japan. Interestingly, the LED companies themselves are moving from making individual chips to entire lighting solutions -- i.e., packaged light sources for specific applications or even lamps. Early next year, LED manufacturer Bridgelux, which has raised $71 million already, will release white light LEDs in a variety of color temperatures. Rather than sell them to the general market, Bridgelux will target these for specific applications, said CEO Mark Swoboda. Philips Lighting, meanwhile, will begin to emphasize lamps in the future. These are the initial burbles of the flood. When you see Intel, Samsung and Cisco talking about the crisis in lighting and their ideas for paving the way to a new world of energy efficient lighting, don't say you weren't warned.