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Raise your hand if you own a 3-D television. Ouch. That's not many of you. Sony (NYSE: SNE ) chief executive Sir Howard Stringer aims to change that. In fact, Stringer, who wore a pair of 3-D glasses for much of his presentation at last week's Consumer Electronics Show, may as well be betting the entire company on the commercial success of the technology.
Sony's 3-D introductions at CES included:
- Content. Sony Pictures this month releases The Green Hornet in 3-D, and stars Seth Rogen and Jay Chou were on hand to celebrate the debut. Forthcoming 3-D releases include a reboot of the Spider-Man franchise and new additions to the Men In Black and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film series. Stringer also unveiled 3net, a 24-hour 3-D programming channel created in partnership with Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCK ) and IMAX (Nasdaq: IMAX ) .
- Cameras and camcorders. New versions of Sony's digital cameras and camcorders transform panoramic shots into split-screen images. Viewed with special glasses, they display images and video in 3-D.
- Televisions. But the so-called killer app was glasses-free 3-D television, which showed about as poorly at Sony as it did everywhere else at CES. Why? These TVs layer a lens on top of the screen to force each eye to view a different image. Think of it as the Fisher Price View-Master upgraded for the 21st century.
Stringer's got guts for betting everything on a technology that's early in its transition from hardcore gamers to soft-seated couch potatoes. Pricing for glasses-ready 3-D TVs already ranges in the thousands. What might a glasses-free 3-D set cost? Joe and Jane Oddlot can do better, I think.
On the other hand, if Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic (NYSE: PC ) don't bet on this technology, who will? As consumers, we need reasons to believe 3-D in the home is a good idea. Perhaps our kids will convince us. But even then, the technology won't succeed without additional research and development into cheaper, crisper form factors.
And that puts Sony in a tough spot. Either spend now to help create a market that may never bear fruit, or hold off and miss out on one of the great tech opportunities of the next 10 years. Judging by his comments at CES, Stringer sees the first alternative as the best -- or perhaps the only. Either way, he's making what in Vegas they call an all-in bet.
Good luck, Sir Howard. You're going to need it.
Now it's your turn to weigh in. What do you think of Sony's big bet on 3-D? Use the comments box below to let us know what you think. You can also rate Sony in Motley Fool CAPS.
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