3-D Will Steal The Show


The revolution will be televised, in 3-D.

Three-dimensional televisions, Blu-ray disc players and other 3-D items are on center stage at this week's International Consumer Electronics Show, and industry officials predict the hot new technology will be showing up in more and more homes soon.

"3-D in the home is far and away one of the biggest stories at CES this year," said Steve DuBravac, chief economist and director of research for the Consumer Electronics Association, producer of CES. "As I reflected on the past few CESs, I can't think of a single theme that is so clearly one of the top stories at CES."

CES, which runs today through Sunday at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas Hilton and The Venetian, includes a 3-D TechZone that will feature 14 exhibitors offering new products. The show is closed to the public.

The electronics association estimates shipments of 3-D televisions will increase 95 percent this year, with 4.3 million 3-D TVs expected to be sold this year. DuBravac predicts that one-quarter of all TVs sold by 2013 will be 3-D sets.

The technology, which has been around since the 1950s, is enjoying a major surge in popularity, and setting the stage for a successful launch into homes, because of the success of several 3-D movies last year, including "Avatar," "Up" and "Monsters Vs. Aliens," industry officials say.

The industry has growth potential because the technology has advanced to the point that the products offer user-friendly specifications and prices, DuBravac said.

This year's exhibitors won't just be talking about their future plans.

"It's going to be manufacturers talking about release dates for their offerings," he said.

Indeed, even before the show opened, manufacturers were unveiling 3-D products. LG Electronics announced Wednesday morning that it will begin selling 47-inch and 55-inch 3-D sets in May. The Korean company plans a 3-D Blu-ray disc player in the future.

A price was not announced. But Tim Alessi, director of product development at LG Electronics USA, told The Associated Press that 3-D models probably will cost $200 to $300 more than comparable flat-panel sets without 3-D capabilities, which already run more than $1,000.

Expect to pay another $200 or so for the required 3-D glasses you'll need to wear and another $300 or so for a new 3-D Blu-ray player.

Announcements of 3-D TV sets were also expected from Samsung Electronics Co. and Sony Corp.

Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, which has been selling 3-D TVs since 2007, showed off its new 82-inch 3-D set on Tuesday during a CES media event. Nick Norton, Mitsubishi's senior manager of brand marketing, said the company features 3-D rear projection TV's in 60-inch, 65-inch, 73-inch and 82-inch models.

The success of 3-D television, though, will depend largely on the success of broadcast television adopting the format, Norton said.

Some moves in that direction were announced earlier this week. On Tuesday, the Discovery Channel and ESPN announced plans to launch 3-D networks. ESPN will have a 3-D channel running by the start of the World Cup soccer tournament in June, and Discovery, through partnerships with Sony and Imax Corp., will launch a 3-D network next year.

While 3-D is the star of this year's show, organizers said other new technologies are getting a lot of buzz, too.

E-readers, netbooks and new applications for iPhones are among this year's draws.

Even with 3-D technology fanning consumers' interest, consumer electronics sales are projected to remain flat at $681 billion this year. Sales, which are tracked by the CEA through 450,000 retail stores in 114 countries, fell 2 percent in 2009 after consecutive years of double-digit growth. Sales swelled from $455 billion in sales in 2005 to a high of $693 billion in 2008.

Revenues declined 12 percent in North America in 2009, and are projected to drop another 3 percent this year.

North America continues to drive the world's consumer electronics revenue, but its dominance is shrinking. The region accounted for 25 percent of revenues in 2006 but is projected to be 19 percent this year. China has grown from 11 percent of electronics sales revenue in 2005 and is now projected to match North America's share this year.

Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@ reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

 

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