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Market research firm DisplaySearch reports that more than 40% of all TV sets sold in 2014 will be 3-D-capable. That would be a stellar rise from the current 2% penetration, but I don't think this technology will matter much at all in the living room.
As much as Sony (NYSE: SNE ) , Panasonic (NYSE: PC ) , and Philips (NYSE: PHG ) would like you to pay extra for TV sets, Blu-ray players, and cable boxes that can handle 3-D signals, I don't see much of a selling point in it. You're asking consumers to go home to their couches, get all cozy-comfortable with easy access to refrigerated beers and on-demand restroom breaks -- and then don ugly electronic glasses attached to the TV via an electrified umbilical cord, thereby breaking the whole illusion of convenience? Good luck with that one.
My fellow consumers seem to agree with my assessment so far. In Europe, DisplaySearch reports that 3-D TV sales outnumber the number of the concomitant glasses sold. This tells me that a lot of people just buy the darn screen because 3-D-capable sets tend to be good-looking televisions on their own, but never invest the several hundred dollars it would take to outfit an entire family or soccer-cheering gang with the necessary hardware.
It's kind of like buying a high-end stereo system. You know there's an AM radio receiver in there, but how often do you use it? The electronics giants will keep building their perfect screens, even if we don't actually use all of their features.
Another factor holding 3-D adoption back is the lack of perspective-friendly content. Not a total lack, mind you: Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS ) , Time Warner (NYSE: TWX ) , and others have made sure to publish their latest features in as many dimensions as possible, though a wholesale invasion of the video racks is yet to come. Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) doesn't ship 3-D discs yet (go search Netflix for Avatar or How to Train Your Dragon if you don't believe me), and may never get around to it unless customer demand for the format picks up.
Even with a lot of 3-D content, I still don't think we care that much about 3-D screens at home. I think we'll be happy leaving that experience for the theater, while making less-than-optimal use of our entertainment centers.
Come back and see me if you have a 3-D technology that doesn't require glasses, but still works from a couch 10 feet away from the screen. The Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) 3DS looks like a promising technological leap, but that method is not designed to work over long distances, with several people watching from various angles. Try again.
Would you buy a 3-D TV today because of that feature, or will you just expect to have it but never use it at some point in the future? Discuss in the comments below.