Samsung says it has started mass production of 3D television screens, making an expensive bet that there's some reality to the hype that surrounds the new technology.
The Korean consumer electronics manufacturer said Wednesday that it is making 3D LED and LCD panels for 40-inch, 46-inch and 55-inch televisions. In order to view content in 3D, people will need to wear Samsung's special eyeglasses.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev., this month, 3D TV was at center stage, with manufacturers showing a couple dozen products. Driving the move toward 3D in the home is the success of 3D movies in theaters. Director James Cameron's "Avatar," for example, has become the highest grossing film ever.
"Recently, 3D displays have captured the industry spotlight," Wonkie Chang, president of the LCD Business at Samsung Electronics, said in a statement. "Samsung Electronics aims to lead the global 3D TV panel market in pioneering panel mass production for 3D LED and LCD TVs."
Mass production is how manufacturers in time are able to lower the cost of consumer electronics and other products. The more products produced, the cheaper it is to make each individual item.
But Samsung is moving quickly into a market that some analysts say will take about 10 years to reach a mass market, which is about how long it took high-definition televisions to reach more than half of the U.S. population.
Hurdles that vendors will have to jump include the fact that since 2007, more than 40 million HDTVs have been sold in the U.S., with most of them costing close to or below $1,000, James McQuivey, analyst for Forrester Research said. Therefore, it's unlikely those same people will fork over between $2,000 and $4,000 for a good 3D TV set.
"Sorry, the credit card is going to stay in the wallet for this one," McQuivey said in his blog.
In addition, there just isn't enough content available to justify buying an expensive 3D set, despite announcements from media companies planning to start producing 3D content. Movies, video games and TV programming will have to make their way into the market in mass, which will take time given the amount of money the industry will have to spend on cameras to film in 3D, new satellite uplinks for distributing live sporting events in 3D and a new cable infrastructure to deliver 3D content, McQuivey said.
"If you think consumers are reeling from the effects of a down economy, you don't want to sit in that meeting where you explain to a fatigued cable network or cable operator that after just completing a massive transition to HD, they now have to go 3D HD," he said.
Long term, analysts are more optimistic about 3D eventually making its way into the home. In the meantime, companies like Samsung are entering the market early to be in a better position to take share as the market grows.
Market researcher DisplaySearch predicts the market for 3D displays used in the home, by professionals, and in advertising will grow from $902 million in revenues worldwide in 2008 to $22 billion in 2018, a compound annual growth rate of 38%.