For the first time in a generation the consumer electronics industry is lacking an “it” technology. It wasn’t that long ago in a world where housing values were 50 percent higher and the economy was somewhat robust that we had flat HDTVs wowing consumers and Blu-ray players sending these amazing sets beaming 1080p video and uncompressed audio via HDMI. There were legitimate reasons why consumers needed to and wanted to upgrade their home theater and AV systems. And hell, they had all the money they needed to pay for the upgrades thanks to liberal lending policies from banks that are either no longer around today or have been “bailed out” by the United States Government.
Tech products more than other more “durable” goods have the ability to sell like hotcakes – even in a recession. Home theater as a category sold successfully as if there was never a recession for 25 years, starting in the VHS and Dolby Pro Logic era through the mid-2000s. Apple iPads sell today as if they are the hottest commodity going. For the world of consumer electronics, the technology that was supposed to keep the party going was 3D – but 3D hasn’t lived up to its hype.
Consumers who saw thin HDTVs knew at first glance that they wanted, needed or had to have a new set. Many times early HDTV sets weren’t displaying HD content, but the lust factor was there. Early adopters plunked down $10,000 plus to have the coolest new toy to hit the world of electronics. 3D doesn’t have this “WOW factor. Not all consumers can see 3D successfully. Consumers aren’t looking to pay extra for extra anything, yet video companies and research firms are bragging about higher and higher 3D HDTV sales. Of course 3D numbers are higher as nearly every set comes with 3D. How many of those sets are actually using 3D right now? How many of those consumers are buying extra glasses? How well are 3D Blu-rays selling at upwards of $40 per disc? Are kids willing to sit there with glasses on their faces for two hours while they watch a movie?
The New York Times cites that 3D theatrical releases have been less and less popular since James Cameron’s Avatar. Hollywood studios are worried that 3D is increasingly not worth the extra money that they’re asking moviegoers to pay. If people feel this way about the big screen, it’s likely going to translate over to the world of home theater and consumer video. Add into the debate the inexcusable fact that low-cost leaders like Vizio are now selling 3D HDTVs with “passive” glasses (like the ones in movie theaters) as opposed to “active” glasses that can cost upwards of $150 per pair but don’t always work across active HDTV brands. Basically, the video industry bet the farm on 3D but didn’t take the time to agree on a standard. Could they have forgotten the HD DVD – Blu-ray format war of 2007? I highly doubt it.
3D was a failure in the 1950s and it is basically a gimmick today. Consumers are demanding incredible value when they spend their hard earned cash on consumer electronics. They want convergence. They want streaming. They want HD content. They want to be entertained, babysat and/or simply blown out of their easy chairs, and when push comes to shove – 3D on nearly every flat HDTV sold today is simply not good enough to be worth buying a new HDTV set. The form factor of a set such as Samsung’s edgeless HDTV might get someone’s attention. Streaming CinemaNow on a Blu-ray player or the feats that Apple TV or an iPad can perform might get people to spend their cash. 3D simply has missed the boat for the non-projector owning home theater enthusiasts.