Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting

DISPLAY CONSULTING


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Push Marketing…
A few day ago, I read an article by a well-known display industry analyst who concluded that if anyone is still doubting the future success of 3D technology then they haven’t been paying attention because “that train has already left the station”.  Well, I may be one of those who didn’t get to the station on time because I continue to be a skeptic.  Maybe I’ll have to catch the next one, but will it be another train in 3D? 

As I was perusing the various advertisements in this Sunday’s paper, I came across an ad for a 50” 3D Plasma HDTV with free 3D glasses included.  The advertised price for this large-screen TV was $569.  Wow!  At that price how can I not buy it?  That is an incredible bargain whether it can do 3D or not.

Another well-known consumer electronics retailer was offering a major brand of LCD flat-panel televisions in a range of sizes with “3D in full 1080p HD”.  The prices were not nearly as attractive as for the 50” plasma television.  However, the most interesting feature of this ad was that there was absolutely no mention that active-shutter glasses would need to be purchased to view these images that represent “the ultimate 3D experience”. 

Given these two examples of the latest sales efforts, have we accomplished anything if we end up giving away this added capability just to say that 3D TV is a success in penetrating the consumer market – or if we have to pretend that we have a product that is more convenient to use than it really is?  I suppose there would be some benefit if this approach drives additional sales of flat-panel televisions but if stereoscopic 3D is simply an added feature that consumers will hardly ever use, and that has virtually no effect on buying decisions, then I would consider the push marketing of television products with 3D capability a dubious accomplishment.

I’ve also read statements by various 3D TV manufacturers that the sellers are simply not doing enough to promote this great new technology.  But ultimately what more can they do than give it away? 

Some years ago, Microsoft made a major push to introduce the concept of the tablet computer.  But in spite of their best efforts most consumers looked and walked away.  Then along came Apple with a different approach and within a few weeks the iPad was so popular that manufacturing lines could not keep up with the demand. 

Push marketing can only do so much. 

In my opinion, current 3D technology is more like the Microsoft version of the tablet computer than the Apple iPad.  All known approaches to stereoscopic 3D create images that will always look disturbingly “unreal”.  Then there is the additional limitation of viewer discomfort and/or eye fatigue when using either passive or active glasses.  Nintendo introduced a game console with a 3D display that does not need glasses but at the expense of limited viewing positions.  The slow sales of this product have been a major disappointment to Nintendo.. 

We also continue to see the comparison being made between the growth of 3D technology and how HDTV replaced analog television.  However, the fundamental forces that drove that technology change-over are entirely different than the ones that may or may not influence the adoption of 3D TV.  The adoption of HDTV was driven by a government mandate to free up valuable spectrum space, by the simultaneous spectacular growth of large-screen flat-panel display technologies, by the dramatic price declines in those products, and by HDTV images that could seamlessly be intermixed with lower resolution formats. The convergence of all these positive influences made it a clear benefit with no downside for the consumer.  

Even today, many newscasts mix various resolution images when showing news events.  Some of these images are of low resolution and taken with cell phone or security cameras.  But as seen by television viewers, the transition from lower resolution or analog NTSC television to HDTV was a seamless experience.  The images simply got crisper and the bigger screens looked much better than before.             

The acceptance of 3D technology is not going to be at all like that.  The creation of acceptable quality 3D will require special camera techniques and the viewing experience will not be as benign as HDTV.  These limitations are not trivial and the extent to which consumers will be willing to accept them is not easy to predict. 

Perhaps what will happen is that in order to try to push this technology onto the consumer, the manufacturers will simply end up giving it away.  We can expect that over the next few years there will be so little price difference between a television that has 3D capability and one that does not that we will simply buy the 3D version “just in case” we ever decide to watch a program or a sporting event in 3D.  I could see a limited use of such a capability even for my own viewing.  Maybe a golf tournament will look more interesting in 3D. 

But does this mean that the 3D train has “already left the station”?  Maybe we have to ask, which train?  If it is the train to more experimentation and further testing of the marketplace with lots of marketing “pushes” to try to get people to buy the technology, then that train has perhaps departed.  However, if it’s the train with lots of consumers on board on their way to buy new 3D TVs at premium prices -- ones that will be used for most of their television viewing, then I think that the departure schedule for that train has not even been posted.  In fact, if you ask the station manager, he may not be able to tell you if such a train is real or just a wishful self-serving fantasy of certain display industry participants. 

Are you already on board that 3D train that has left the station?  Or are you going to wait and see if there is a more promising one later?  Send me a message and let me know how your journey is progressing.  I can be reached directly from this site, by e-mail at silzars@attglobal.net, or by telephone at 425-898-9117. 

 

19916 NE 30th Ct. Sammamish, WA 98074 Call 425.898.9117

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