Manufacturers clash in 3D TV war

Posted on 08 Jan 2011 at 22:10PM
Manufacturers clash in 3D TV war

Manufacturers clash in 3D TV war

Photo: Bloomberg Makers of big-screen television sets risk confusing shoppers with competing 3D TV formats at a time when the higher-priced sets have been ...

Makers of big-screen television sets risk confusing shoppers with competing 3D TV formats at a time when the higher-priced sets have been slow to catch on.

LG Electronics, the world’s third-largest maker of liquid-crystal display (LCD) sets, said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that it would offer large models using 3D glasses like those in cinemas, joining Vizio, the second-largest US maker. On Tuesday Toshiba said it would sell sets that do not use glasses from the middle of the year.

The duelling formats may complicate efforts by manufacturers and retailers to win over shoppers. In addition to format confusion, 3D buyers are faced with higher prices, including glasses that can cost $150, and concerns about the availability of shows and movies to watch in three dimensions.

“While TV manufacturers have bold plans and a lot of new products, consumers remain cautious,” said Paul Gray, the director of TV electronics research for DisplaySearch, a US industry researcher. “Consumers have been told that 3D TV is the future, but there still remains a huge price jump and little 3D content to watch.”

DisplaySearch estimates 3.2 million 3D TVs were shipped worldwide last year, and expects the total to reach more than 90 million in 2014. That suggests 3D will make up 41 percent of flat-panel shipments, from 2 percent in 2010.

The companies are ditching the stereoscopic 3D standard used in first-generation sets sold starting in 2010. Those require active-shutter, or battery-powered, glasses to combine images into the 3D effect.

Customers complained about the $100 to $150 price and weight of such glasses, said Matthew McRae, the chief technology officer of Vizio.

“As a mass consumer product, it clearly was not the right technology,” McRae said. Vizio would include four pairs of the lighter, cinema-style glasses with each TV, he said.

Samsung, the world’s largest maker of televisions, planned to stick with active-shutter glasses this year, the company said in Las Vegas.

Samsung introduced a new design for 3D glasses that is lightweight and creates a lighter picture.

Masaru Kato, Sony’s chief financial officer, admitted in October that sales of 3D sets, projected to account for 10 percent of the Tokyo-based company’s 25 million annual TV sales target, were trailing previous expectations.

Manufacturers might have overhyped 3D, said Mike Fasulo, the chief marketing officer of Sony Electronics.

Early adopters of the technology found scant 3D content to watch and some complained of headaches caused by image flickering, he said.

Sony planned to exhibit glasses-free 3D TVs in Las Vegas in both LCD and organic light-emitting diode models, Hiroshi Yoshioka, an executive deputy president, said on Wednesday.

Last year, Sony, together with cable TV programmer Discovery Communications and Imax, the operator of large-screen theatres, announced plans for a 3D network called 3net to start this year.

Hollywood studios and other content providers also are expected to release additional Blu-ray titles in 3D.

Walt Disney’s ESPN 3D plans to expand its programming to 24 hours a day next month, the company announced in Las Vegas.

Consumers might initially be confused by the different types of 3D TV sets available, said Skott Ahn, the chief technology officer for Seoul-based LG Electronics.

“We’re trying to remove technical barriers and make the price of 3D more reasonable,” Ahn said.

Chinese television manufacturers, Vizio and others were using technology that was similar to that used by LG, which should shorten the format war, Havis Kwon, the president of LG Electronics Home Entertainment, said. - Bloomberg

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