This week, Samsung boasted about the success of its 3D TV range at the company’s European Regional Forum in Budapest, Hungary. In less than a year, the company has sold over two million units worldwide, which equates to 60% of the total 3D TV market share.
Similar success stories are being touted by Sony, LG and Panasonic, all of whom enjoyed healthy 3D TVs sales in 2010. Adoption of the tehnology is expected to double this year, with Futuresource Consulting estimating sales to hit 8 million in 2011.
At first glance, it seems that every man and his bespectacled dog wants a piece of the 3D action – how else do you explain this sudden boom in sales? Well, it turns out that sales charts don’t always tell the whole story.
These days, if you're looking to buy a new, premium-level television, it’s pretty difficult to find a model without 3D. TV vendors have also done a good job of keeping the price of their 3D products down to an affordable level.
In other words, these healthy adoption rates aren’t necessarily indicative of a demand for 3D TV. Rather, the success of the technology could be purely coincidental.
The real question is; how many of these buyers actually use the 3D-functionality of their TVs? Is it something they even care about?
We pitched this theory to the product manager of a leading 3D TV manufacturer, who wished to remain anonymous. All in all, he seems to agree that 3D is not the ‘must have’ feature that most consumers are looking for.
“Some people went out and bought one of our [3D TVs] specifically for State of Origin and the World Cup, so the 3D is definitely a factor for them. But most are just buying as a way to ‘future proof’ their systems," he said. "...Really, the main factor is price. The price of 3D TVs came crashing down a few months after launch, so that helped drive adoption of the technology. Sony went pretty hard too around Christmas with the bonus PlayStation 3 deal.”
To put it another way; it’s not the ‘3D’ that’s selling these TVs, it’s the promotional bundles and attractive price point.
Perhaps most tellingly of all, the manager we spoke to went on to downplay the importance of 3D in his company’s latest panels: “You can’t really classify our products as ‘just a 3D TV’. This is just one of a series of features within our panels, such as DLNA content sharing, online networking and connectivity with other devices from the same brand.”
Only time will tell whether 3D TV becomes the accepted norm. If it is the future of our living rooms, it could be an entirely accidental one.