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2010: The Year Of 3D In CE

3D TV is the most talked about new technology in the consumer electronics industry this year.

That being said, the technology has taken its PR lumps since March when Panasonic and Samsung took over Manhattan during the same week launching their respective TV lines.

3D TVs have been criticized on cost of the sets, the required use of glasses, lack of programming, the need for a 3D Blu-ray deck to complete the experience, medical concerns … among other things.

Sounds like reviews of the first HDTVs a decade ago, doesn’t it? In fact, one newsweekly at the time had a headline that blared, “HDTV Is Dead.”

So I wasn’t surprised when we received news of a new iSuppli report with the headline: “Internet-Enabled TV Trumps 3D TV In 2010.”

So while I’m not saying that “3D TV Is Dead” – and neither is iSuppli – when I got the report I wasn’t surprised. I agreed based on conversations I’ve had with retailers and manufacturers this year.

iSuppli estimates that global shipments of TVs with Internet capability will be 27.7 million this year, while global 3D TV shipments will total 4.2 million. Riddi Patel, director and principal analysts for TV at iSuppli, said in the report that the CE industry’s best friend – early adopters – are driving 3D TV sales, but price, content availability and others will limit the market in 2010.

But Patel noted that Internet TV, which has been around in one way or another the past couple of years, can provide immediate benefits because content is “readily available” now.

Meanwhile DisplaySearch is forecasting 3.4 million 3D TVs to be shipped worldwide this year (2 million 3D TVs for North America) and an estimated 42.9 million to be shipped worldwide by 2014.

As you can see from last week’s product introductions, no one has been dissuaded from introducing more 3D products. Panasonic debuted 3D camcorders and more Blu-ray decks; DXG is offering a 3D pocket camcorder/viewer bundle, and Runco said its additions to its projection Signature series are both 3D-ready.

When Panasonic debuted its 3D TV line earlier this year, it told everyone that retailers should position 3D TVs as “top-of-the-line HDTVs.”

This subject came up in a meeting I had last week with Jeff Kussard, strategic development exec with distributor Capitol Sales. He noted that with his mix of customers – which include retailers, custom installers and others – “3D TV sell-through sales rates are tracking at rates of top-of-the-line TVs of the past.” So maybe Capitol’s customers are passing that “top-of-the-line” message along to consumers. Or maybe those early adopters already figured that out by themselves.

Internet-enabled TVs will be a real winner at retail this year. But no matter the unit sales figures, when the industry looks back at 2010 it will be called “The Year of 3D in CE,” due to the sales, attention and in-store and online traffic it will have generated.

This blog originally appeared as a Viewpoint column in TWICE’s August 2, 2010 print edition