Over the past decade, we've witnessed the birth of broadband, high-definition television, mobility and other increasingly complex, useful and entertaining ways of seeing and hearing over distance. Each innovation had ramifications in the marketplace. The next significant step-which figures to rival HDTV in market impact, but certainly won't be as transformative as broadband or mobility -- will be 3D television.
Broad 3D adoption is closer to moving from the theater to the living room than people who don't follow the sector likely think. GigaOm Pro has released a report that says some consumer products are likely to be available next year, and that volumes will develop in the near term afterwards.
The study says that big players-the Sonys and Panasonics of the world-see 3D as an answer to shrinking margins and the maturation of the HDTV segment. It suggests that as many as 46 million 3D-capable HDTVs will be sold in 2013. The study suggests an adoption curve-with 3D available on an increasing amount of programming and viewers choosing to watch a given program in traditional or 3D formats-will be similar to the way in which HDTV edged into the market.
The development of 3D-assuming that it is something that folks want, which seems likely-will unleash significant creative, technical and marketing competition. This is happening already, at least on the technical front. For instance, BBC reported last week that Sony has introduced a single camera capable of recording in the 3D format. Generally, the piece says, two cameras are needed. The story does a good job of describing the clever way that Sony has done this. Essentially, the necessary dual image is created by splitting the image received by one camera and sending it to two sensors. The story doesn't discuss price, but it seems likely to be less expensive and more efficient than multi-camera approaches.
More innovation is emerging from the usual suspects. Gizmodo reports that Panasonic is showing off a 50-inch prototype of a set featuring new materials and chips. Intel has unveiled the CE4 100 processor. Code named Sodaville before its introduction, the CE4 100 is a 45-nanometer system-on-a-chip that can support a number of applications, including 3D.
The wave of 3D television raises interesting questions concerning the impact on the lovely war between cable, telco and over-the-top IP-based video delivery. Will 3D be more effectively marketed by one of the groups? If so, will it have a big impact on the competitive balance between the three? Conversely, are there simply so many great features available in modern telecom that one more won't make too much of a difference?
In the final analysis, it seems that likely that 3D television will an attractive feature, particularly for movies and sports programming. It remains to be seen, however, if it will be just another snazzy feature or if it is destined to be the latest next big thing.