3DTV was all the rage at the 2011 CES, but it will never catch on
Have you or anyone you know purchased a 3DTV?
I haven’t come across anyone who has, and my question is “why the heck would anyone go to the trouble?”
3DTV was all the rage at the recent Consumer Electronics Show; just about every TV manufacturer was desperately pushing their version of 3D.
The variations on the technology are baffling, some have active glasses, some have passive glasses, there are disposable glasses and Toshiba now has a “no glasses” version. Pricing is all over the place—depending upon the implementation—with larger screens selling for around $5,000 in the U.S.
But the confusion and expense of the hardware is not the problem. The lack of content will keep this technology from catching on. There was not a single 3D content agreement announced at CES this month, so what chance do the manufacturers have?
3DTV is a technology looking for an application, a common occurrence in electronics. Just because we can do something with an invention doesn’t mean the world needs it. (This is fruitful territory for a later blog; think Talking lights).
3DTV has been around for a long time; EE Times Editor Junko Yoshida of EE Times has been writing about it since the early 2000s. Rick Merritt (also of EE Times) wrote a great piece last year after CES on how it will take time for the technology, content and standards to shake out, and it’s still in flux.
Echoes of the past
All this reminds me of my weekend high school job at a stereo store. We had a quadraphonic system from (I think) Pioneer, which was on demo. Everyone wanted to hear it and play with the joystick that controlled the speaker sound field. But we only had one disc (yes, vinyl) that was true quadraphonic so that issue with content repeats itself today.
That Pioneer system was on demo for a year and didn’t sell.
Just to make sure my prejudices weren’t clouding reality I took a field trip to a local Best Buy electronics superstore to check out the latest offerings and it was underwhelming.
A demo for the Panasonic Viera was out of order, the Sony demo with active glasses was working but made the 3D image seem very artificial and even a little forced. Samsung had an interesting bundle with a Blu-ray player and a sound bar at a very attractive price but there were no glasses for a demo and no 3D content running on the screen.
Of all the TVs on display, the 3D versions make up a very small percentage. I didn’t see anyone looking at them, and the usually tenacious sales staff left me alone. Interestingly, Best Buy just announced an insurance program protecting buyers against TV obsolescence with a 50% trade in value (there is a catch though), so even Best Buy thinks the confusion over 3D is crimping sales.
Why is all this important from a semiconductor perspective? A third of all ICs are consumed by 10 companies. These are mainly consumer electronics companies, so the impact of sales of TVs has a huge impact on our industry.
3D TV is never going to be a real driver of semi sales in 2011 or even 2012 because the value proposition just isn’t there for consumers; I doubt it will ever come.
As I was leaving Best Buy with my kids (who were more interested in games and the Kinect by the way) we saw George Lucas walking in, maybe he was going to check 3D out as well?
David Blaza is senior vice president of UBM Electronics (the company that publishes EE Times and EDN). David has over 20 years of sales, marketing, and publishing experience in the technology sector working for companies as diverse as IBM, Motorola, Mars Electronics, CMP and now United Business Media. He is a graduate of the University of Bradford, England (BS, Materials Science) and the University of Stirling, Scotland (MS in Economics & Technology).