Hot on the heels of the high definition revolution, television manufacturers are introducing the next game changer, 3D television. So sure is the industry of our willingness to upgrade, that they have already flooded the market with a wide array of competing 3D LCD televisions. Not only is the market prepped for early adopters, newer technology, such as 2D to 3D conversion technology and sets that do not require glasses, looms on the horizon. However, one has to wonder if the industry is correct. Is the average person ready to upgrade to 3D television so soon?
The television manufacturing industry seems certain but no one else seems so sure. While the manufacturers have managed to generate a lot of publicity surrounding 3D television, one has to consider the potential benefit for the common TV viewer. The big players, such as LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, and Toshiba, invested a lot of money at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show convincing us that this technology would change the way we experienced television. We bought in to it for a while. They had flashy tech on hand and statistics that indicated that at least 25% of consumers planned to purchase a 3D television within the next three years.
However, once the newness wore off, and it wore off quickly, we began to wonder about some of the issues and began to notice that the industry may have overstated demand. Did excitement over James Cameron’s film Avatar exaggerate the hype? It certainly seems that way in retrospect. Looking at Avatar on a top-of-the-line 3D television is a remarkable sight. However, when you broaden the experience one cannot help but think that the 3D experience is of limited usefulness in a home environment.
Toshiba wants the consumer to believe that their new 2D to 3D conversion technology will change their life. However, can most people imagine watching reruns of Seinfeld and thinking, “Wow, this is so much better in 3D?” Industry marketing has focused on how much and how fast 3D content will be available. No one seems to be asking how many 3D content consumers actually want. We suspect that is quite a bit less than the industry initially believed.
There are other issues, such as practicality, that will affect demand. As television viewers, we are by nature lazy, at least at those moments when we want to watch television. There is a stereotype that men would rather stare at an infomercial than get up and fetch the remote. There are truths in stereotypes. Are people going to want to wear these contraptions for long periods? Are they going to want to manage sets of glasses? These shutter glasses need maintenance through charging, cleaning, and safekeeping. Moreover, there are large expenses involved. How many do you need? The average family needs four but will likely want additional units for those times when company is over.
Shutter glass-less technology will erase many of these issues but it is going to carry a premium that will exclude most potential 3D television buyers. There are also pricing issues that extend beyond the cutting edge sets. These are difficult economic times and many families have just recently spent a great deal of money on HD sets that they hoped would last five to ten years. The industry can try to convince us otherwise but we have difficulty believing that the core of potential customers will support this new technology anytime soon or will they?

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