3D is Underperforming Expectations

Carl Weinschenk

For the past year or so, pundits have said that the future of television is 3D. That remains the case, since the present, according to DisplaySearch, is not so hot. Though 3D essentially is a consumer entertainment technology, it is a category that IT planners should keep on their radar both because it's a potential corporate tool and, less directly, its fate will affect the offerings of the service providers with which they deal.


The research firm says that high prices and lack of content has kept consumers' money in their pockets, though it predicts things will improve for vendors when more programming, lower prices and better technology emerge. The release says that all of these positive developments are expected.


DisplaySearch says that 3.2 million 3D TVs (2 percent of all flat-panel televisions shipped) will be sold this year. Those figures will increase to 90 million and 41 percent in 2014.


If 3D is to make it, cable television providers will need to be on board. Currently, the industry is struggling to find the most efficient ways of providing services. Since the cable operators have to dole out bandwidth parsimoniously in order to support its broad array of offerings, it is working with approaches that will reduce the data needed to transmit the 3D content by half. The tradeoff is lower quality. Plans are to add to full data delivery later.


PC Magazine's Lance Ulanoff certainly isn't surprised by the DisplaySearch numbers. He points to three reasons that the category is, to this point, a disappointment. People don't want to wear (and, certainly, pay extra for) 3D glasses. Toward the end of the piece, he says that technology enabling 3D without glasses is coming and people are willing to wait. The two glasses-related issues sandwich another big problem, which is that there simply isn't enough content available.


Ironically, the DisplaySearch research was published during the week after Gartner released research that included 3D in its 2010 hype cycle. The idea is that technologies burst on the scene and cause undue expectations. Though its presentation is a bit more nuanced, the essence of Gartner's hype cycle is that new technologies cause expectations that are extravagant. This leads to a "trough of disillusionment" and, eventually, a rebound to a more reasonable level of acceptance.


3D TV will find a niche. It has potential value for the burgeoning world of enterprise video communications. But, as the DisplaySearch and Gartner research suggests, wide use of the technology-and the accompanying downward pressure on equipment costs-won't be realized immediately.

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