I'm surprised by figures, forecasts, predictions and prophecies all showing a rosy outlook for 3D TV beginning as early as this year, because I've seen most of the 3D offerings available and I have no plans to buy -- not now and not anytime soon. I should be a part of the core demographic for 3D: I like TV, movies and video games. I'm am early adopter. I have reasonable disposable income. I'm not afraid of betting on the wrong standard. And yet, I'm not buying. Here's why.
Cost: I'm fortunate that cost isn't the biggest inhibitor for me when I buy things, but I still do a cost/benefit analysis before I make a purchase. To really embrace 3D, I need a new TV, even though my current 1080p set is only a few years old and is wonderful. I'd need a new media player. I'd need glasses -- lots of them, as there can often be five or six people sitting around my set. I'd probably want a new digital camera to take 3D shots. And of course, I'd need some compelling 3D content from somewhere. That's already starting up to add into a significant cost proposition that takes it far out of impulse purchase territory.
I just don't see the value or wow factor that 3D brings to the table in its current format.
Hassle: It's not just the cost to move to 3D. It's the hassle. Moving to HD was a breeze -- you just plugged in a new TV and were wowed by immediately available content. My upscaling DVD player made existing SD content look better than ever. By contrast, just viewing 3D content is a hassle due to the glasses. They're not cheap. They are gadgets in and of themselves, which means they require care and feeding, and everyone in the room needs a pair. Worse, I find 3D glasses very uncomfortable to wear for long periods over my regular glasses. The hassle alone of acquiring and viewing 3D content is enough to put me off.
Benefit: The cost and hassle of 3D could easily be justified and rationalized if there was a superb benefit on par with the move to HD. For me, 3D is cool but at best gratuitous. It doesn't change the visceral viewing experience for most of the content I've seen. I just don't see the value or wow factor that 3D brings to the table in its current format.
Someday technology will advance and 3D will be integrated into every screen. Standards will be deployed and the bulky and costly glasses will disappear. Content providers will figure out how to tell better stories with 3D that wouldn't have been possible before. And if that happens before I do my holiday shopping this year, I'll be on board. Given the low probability of that scenario, I'm going to pass for now. I expect many other consumers will as well.
Michael Gartenberg is a partner at Altimeter Group. His weblog can be found at gartenblog.net. Contact him at gartenberg AT gmail DOT com. Views expressed here are his own.