October 14, 2010, 7:58 AM — TV manufacturers are trying their best to make 2010 the Year of 3D TV, but according to a report at DisplaySearch, consumers aren't cooperating. I doubt this news comes as a surprise to most of us; I personally can't think of anyone who rushed out to buy a 3D TV.
But the stats are even worse than I thought they'd be. DisplaySearch estimates that 3.2 million 3D TVs will be shipped in 2010 . Note that's shipped, not sold. 3.2 million equates to 2% of all flat panel displays shipped (as far as I can ascertain, that's worldwide shipments). So yeah, there are not many 3D TVs being shipped this year.
But wait, that's not the end of the bad news. In Western Europe (the only region where they offered this data point) sales of 3D glasses are less than 1 per 3D set sold. In other words, a lot of Western Europeans who buy a TV with 3D capability don't even bother to buy the glasses to use that feature. Presumably they're either waiting for better glasses prices, more content, or the TV they picked just happened to have 3D capability but it wasn't a feature they were really interested in.
DisplaySearch is still optimistic about the future of 3D, claiming that by 2014 90 million 3D TVs will ship (that's 41% of the estimated 2014 market share). What makes all of this particularly interesting is when you compare these numbers to an earlier report from July. Just a few months ago figures for this year were larger (3.4 million/5%) and the estimate for 2014 was smaller (42.9 million/37%).
So while the trend this year is headed downwards, their prediction for 2014 is growing. Why? Because the manufacturers are so gung-ho on 3D that more and more sets will include it, while the add-on cost of 3D-enabling a TV will continue to drop. I read this to mean that many of the sets on store shelves will have 3D whether you want it or not, but the price difference between a 3D and a non-3D TV will drop to where it isn't very significant. What would be really interesting is a prediction of how many pairs of 3D glasses will be sold in 2014 (though personally I hope that 3D glasses will be an artifact of the past by then).
I don't have a research lab to put to work, but the sense I get among regular consumers (aka my friends and family) is that no one wants to sit in their living room wearing special glasses just to watch TV. As early as this December Toshiba will be selling (small) glasses-free 3D televisions in Japan, and this is the way the tech needs to go in order to really take off. Offer a glasses-free 3D TV with a wide enough viewing angle that a bunch of people can gather round and watch the Superbowl while passing the dip and clanking beer bottle to toast touchdowns and then I think consumers will be interested. At least I know I would be. How about you?