Did 3-D Television Just Die?

There's been plenty of buzz about Toshiba rolling out a 3-D television for consumers that doesn't require the cumbersome -- and costly -- glasses.

Naughty, naughty Toshiba. You may have just set back the 3-D home theater revolution a couple of years.

There are two big problems with Toshiba's GL1 series of envelope-pushing sets. First, the televisions are tiny. There was a 56-inch screen prototype on display, but the two that will hit the market have screen sizes of a mere 12 and 20 inches. Home theater entertainment this clearly is not.

The other stickler is price: $2,880 for a 20-inch screen that is probably smaller than your computer monitor will be a hard sell. Initial reviews also claim that the quality isn't as good as the current screen-and-glasses variety of 3-D televisions.

Either way, your heart has to go out to Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) , Panasonic (NYSE: PC  ) , and all of the other companies dreaming of making a holiday splash with their 3-D sets this season. Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  ) has spent months stirring demand in its televised ads. It's all for naught. Who would be dumb enough to go buy a glasses-tethered 3-D television now, when the technology is already evolving?

It's quite possible that the expensive optics were going to sink the 3-D revolution before it had a chance to start. Forcing every viewer to wear the high-tech specs limits the number of invited guests to any viewing party. That look may fly in a movie theater, but it's not a functional fashion around the home, where phones ring, babies cry, and dogs claw at the door to be walked.  Toshiba's in the right spot, but it'll to take years before the price points get attractive enough to catch on with mainstream audiences.

Not everyone will be a loser here, of course. RealD (NYSE: RLD  ) , the leading provider of 3-D conversions to multiplex operators, went public this summer. Pushing out the 3-D revolution in homes will make marketing premium cinematic experiences easier for exhibitors. IMAX (Nasdaq: IMAX  ) will be another winner, but you have to subtract some points, since it's teaming up with Sony and Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCK  ) to launch the first 24/7 cable channel that will broadcast exclusively in 3-D.

There will be other winners. If Best Buy isn't moving potentially obsolete 3-D sets during the holidays, it will still be selling tablets, musical instruments, and audio equipment as big-ticket replacements.

Nonetheless, Toshiba has jinxed this craze before it had a chance to go insane when the holiday shopping season begins next month.

The 3-D home market will be stuck in neutral for a while. If can't see that picture clearly, you may want to remove your rose-colored glasses.

Would you still buy a 3-D set that requires glasses, if you knew glasses-free models were in the works? Please share your perspective in the comment box below.

Best Buy is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. IMAX is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Best Buy and Discovery Communications are Motley Fool Stock Advisor choices. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Best Buy. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a movie buff, but he doesn't own shares in any of the stocks in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 07, 2010, at 4:28 PM, otherthani wrote:

    I actually did purchase a 3-D set several months ago. Also just a few days ago with the release of some additional movies in 3-D, I took the plunge and purchased the glasses. Many manufacturers are offering a free pair of glasses with the television and 3d capable blu ray player. Prices for televisions continue to drop (my 55" 1080P LED 3D televison today cost just as much as a 55" PLASMA 720P NON 3D televison 3 years ago.). The thing that I see that is hurting 3D televisions right now is the lack of content. Where's AVATAR 3D, CLASH OF THE TITANS 3D, TOY STORY 3 3D and more for the home. Theyre just not available.... and some future release titles will be exclusives, linked with specific brand name bundles ex: PANASONIC 3DHDTV-3DBLURAY-GLASSES-AVATAR 3D. In otherwords... you will be able to purchase AVATAR in 3D, but only if you purchase the PANASONIC bundle.

  • Report this Comment On October 12, 2010, at 9:27 PM, jrbino2009 wrote:

    NO, I for one would not. It is logical to wait a few years for the technology to fully develop. It is an easy position to take. Many people like myself recently invested in a large screen HDTV. I would not be tempted to purchase a 3D TV set unless I was sure the technology had been perfected.

  • Report this Comment On October 16, 2010, at 8:01 AM, BioBat wrote:

    With people just starting to adopt HDTVs en masse, I'm not sure that they're going to want to be told their TVs are now obsolete and they have to go out and spend another $2000 to be up to date and buy separate glasses to boot. No thanks.

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