3D TVs to Be Huge in 2010? Fat Chance

TV makers are throwing serious weight behind 3D TVs, but their sales projections seem rather generous.

This is the year that Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, and other television makers throw serious weight behind 3D TV, but their sales projections seem rather generous.

All three companies started talking a big game yesterday, revealing launch plans and sales expectations. Panasonic, which will start selling 3D TVs at Best Buy this week, expects to ship 1 million of them this year. Samsung said it will ship 2 million 3D TVs -- roughly 5 percent of its total TV shipments. Sony was more generous, projecting that 2.5 million, or 10 percent, of its HDTVs sold this year will be 3D sets.

I'm skeptical that 3D TV will take off this year, but don't take my word for it. Let's look at some numbers from the experts:

Market researcher iSuppli's 3D TV forecast from earlier this month projects 4.2 million shipments (not sales, mind you) worldwide this year. That's 1.3 million less than the combined 3D TV sales or shipments from Sony, Panasonic, and Samsung, and they're not the only companies readying 3D TVs this year. Vizio and LG are both throwing their hats in the ring.

Projections aside, consumer concerns are going to make 3D TVs a tough sell this year. An NPD report from February said roughly a third of consumers are at least "somewhat interested" in the technology, but they're worried about prices, the availability and cost of 3D content and the convenience, or lack thereof, of wearing 3D glasses.

Those are serious concerns. Sony's 40-inch TV will cost ¥220,000, or roughly $2,450. Panasonic's 50-inch TV will reportedly cost $2,500 at launch. We're talking premiums of more than $1,000 for the 3D experience, not including 3D glasses and transmitters for communicating between the set and the glasses. Content's also an issue, with Avatar -- arguably the biggest driver yet of interest in 3D -- still in the conceptual stage for 3D Blu-ray, and unlikely to be released this year.

None of this is to say that 3D TV has no potential. Even iSuppli expects TV shipments to blossom over the next five years to 78 million units shipped in 2015. But TV makers ought to be more realistic about how quickly consumers will take to this new technology.

This story, "3D TVs to Be Huge in 2010? Fat Chance" was originally published by PCWorld.

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