At the risk of sounding like James Cameron, I am not talking about myself – I am quoting Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
I will, however, take credit for correctly predicting a slow start to 3D TVs. According to Chris Nuttall reporting in the Financial Times, big-screen 3D TVs are not the hottest items this holiday season. You may have seen in various publications that Best Buy reported this week that slow sales of 3D TVs had contributed to disappointing quarter results. “We do not agree . . . that 3D TV and [Internet-connected TVs] are the next great things,” said analysts at Wedbush Morgan Securities, citing a lack of 3D content for TVs. “We remain pessimistic that 3D TV will be widely adopted by any but the most hard-core gamers.”
There has been much speculation about the reason(s) for the slow sales. Certainly, the slow (if at all) economic recovery isn’t helping; the lack of content, and the dramatic rise in tablets have all played a part. It’s just my opinion, but I think the failure of 3D is experiential, not economic.
I am totally fine gathering up my family and heading to the movie theater to watch a 3D movie (even though I have a hard time registering 3D). It’s not the engagement of 3D – it’s the experience: darkened theater, eating popcorn, coming attractions, etc. It’s an event – so I’ll put on my glasses and pay the extra few dollars. However, at least in my household, TV viewing is not an experience. Gone are the days when the family would gather around to watch a major TV event. Besides the Superbowl, I can’t think of the last TV show I had to carefully plan to watch.
In my house, we watch nothing live – opting for the DVR. If we are watching something live, we pause, and complete other tasks and come back. TV is not the centerpiece of our activities – the power of DVR allows us to make the TV work to our schedule. So, my vision problem aside, the reason I have no interest in 3D TV is that I don’t want to mess with it. I don’t want to gather glasses, keep track of glasses, make sure I have purchased (or rented) 3D content, etc. I just want to watch TV.
It is important to recognize that TV is just a part of potential 3D usage. Nintendo is launching a handheld game console that will not require special glasses to play 3D games. Some laptops, tablets and mobile phones will be equipped with 3D-capable screens that will not need glasses. The smaller screen size of these items, combined with (generally) a single viewer sitting a short distance from it at a relatively fixed angle, makes it easier for the format to be served without eyewear. I won’t use these devices (eye issue), but I can foresee that they will be successful because they have no detraction from the user’s experience. The user would be sitting in front of the laptop anyway – 3D is an excellent bonus.
It could be that the experience / effort for TV is what is dragging down sales. I know about all the claims of 3D TV with no glasses necessary, and I say, “bunk!” I’ve seen them – not impressive. Of course, new technology could be just around the corner. Apple was granted a patent this month on a 3D projection system that accommodates multiple viewers without glasses, and that group really knows how to do stuff right.
So I think technology is the reason for slow sales. If the technology is perfected, will the same problem exist? Analysts aren’t too hot on 3D TVs right now, but is it because they’re right or because I’m right? Only time will tell.
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