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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.