SBD/January 6, 2011/Media

3D TV Again A Major Focus Of Int'l Consumer Electronics Show

Despite considerable questions around 3D TV, complaints over the cost and bulkiness of the glasses, and sluggish sales in many pockets of the industry, the enhanced format is for the second straight year making a major showing the Int'l Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, officially beginning its '11 version today. Also making significant noise during a run of company previews yesterday were next-generation connected TVs and tablet devices designed to compete with Apple Inc.'s much-lauded iPad. Like last year, retail rollout of the new sets and devices is generally targeted for the late spring and summer. A look at some of yesterday's major announcements:

SONY: Among the most bullish proponents of 3D TV last year as the technology made its way into consumer TVs for the home, Sony this year more than doubled down on that initial investment, unveiling a dizzying array of 3D-enabled devices and services that included larger TVs, Blu-Ray players, digital video streaming, still and video cameras, laptops, video gaming, and a new nature 3D TV channel, 3net, in partnership with Discovery Communications and IMAX. The spate of announcements covered a wide range of genres and platforms, but sports was among the leading elements, in part through the company's continued support of ESPN 3D, now being expanded into a full 24/7 network. "In 2011, 3D becomes personal," said Sony Chair & CEO Sir Howard Stringer. "3D is far more than a science fiction gimmick. ... It simply mirrors the experience of reality itself." Stringer also unveiled prototypes of glasses-less 3D sets the company is experimenting with, but like Sony's competitors, there is no definitive timetable for that technology to be commercialized. Sony is additionally partnering with Time Warner Cable to offer Sony TVs that can show cable channels from the distributor without a set-top box.

Samsung projects '10 global sales total of more than 1 million 3D TV set to grow sixfold in '11
SAMSUNG: The company unveiled a new line of larger and slimmer 3D TVs with dedicated applications, and like Sony, remains quite bullish on the future of 3D TVs. Samsung projects that its '10 global sales total of more than 1 million 3D sets will grow sixfold in '11 to more than 6 million sets, and claimed that already, 3D TV is ahead of the adoption curve first seen for Blu-Ray players and DVDs. 3D-enabled sets will comprise 60% of Samsung's total TV offerings this year. The company, like several others, additionally showed off a pair of active-shutter 3D glasses that were far thinner, lighter and more flexible than initial versions.

PANASONIC: Like its competitors, Panasonic pushed bigger, thinner and cheaper 3D TV sets, and for the second straight year also complemented the display units with a push in 3D-enabled camcorders. But the company was also the one making the most noise toward a common platform for active-shutter glasses. Currently, each manufacturer's technical standards for the glasses are proprietary, meaning they cannot be used for competitors' sets, in turn often creating problems for group-viewing events common to televised sports. "It's not a matter of if, but when," said Panasonic Corp. of North America Chair & CEO Joe Taylor. "And when that happens, it's going to be transformative." Panasonic also had its own projections for 3D growth, predicting that the technology will have 32% of the total TV market by '14. The prior line of Viera Cast televisions with online media streaming functionality is being expanded to include Viera Connect, encompassing a new batch of IPTV-based services. Initial sports applications within Viera Connect include ones from MLBAM, the NHL, NBA, MLS and Fox Sports. A series of health and fitness applications, compatible with various exercise devices, will seek to stake out the individualized, TV-based workout space carved out by EA Sports and others.

CISCO: As expected, Cisco yesterday debuted Videoscape, a cloud-based effort that seeks to tie together traditional TV content, digital and mobile video, social media, Cisco's own efforts with TelePresence video teleconferencing, and other video. In action, Videoscape operates like a centralized dashboard, showing traditional TV, online content, and recent social media postings all at a single glance. Rather than put its efforts behind an over-the-top video service such as Roku or Boxee, Cisco instead is seeking to partner with existing cable companies, content owners, and Internet service providers, with those outlets serving as the primary means of distribution to consumers. And the effort internally ties together Cisco's previously disparate efforts in sports and entertainment, video conferencing, Internet routing and video delivery. "We think this is precisely where the market is headed and is going to completely transform what television is," said Cisco Chair & CEO John Chambers. Sports, not surprisingly, was a central feature in the Videoscape unveiling, with NBA All-Star Game behind-the-scenes video content, deriving from the league's deal with Cisco, among the elements shown.

Sharp touting Quattron technology at CES instead of 3d TVs or connected TV functionality
SHARP: As was the case last year, Sharp zigs at CES when all its major competitors zag. Sharp offers 3D TV and connected TV functionality, but rather than tout either of those, the company again primarily trumpeted its Quattron technology enabling richer and deeper colors and what it believes is better overall picture quality. "We want to be that trophy TV that you want to bring in all your family and friends to watch," said Sharp Electronics Marketing Co. of America President John Herrington. The company additionally unveiled a new tablet device dubbed Galapagos that will be focused heavily on e-reading. Sharp is no longer a MLB sponsor, though it remains aligned with several individual teams. But without that league sponsorship, Sharp has discontinued its practice in recent years of bringing in prominent baseball players such as Red Sox DH David Ortiz and Yankees P Joba Chamberlain to CES.

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