Sony had one of the most impressive array of 3D-enabled gadgets at CES 2011. Television, cameras, camcorders and even a futuristic head-mounted display were all using (stereo) 3D technology (photo above). It’s normal for audio/video manufacturers to come up with products that have new features, and 3D is arguably the next frontier in visual technology, but Sony -more than any other electronics brand- has a huge stake in promoting an all-3D world.
Unlike competitors, Sony not only produces 3D-related electronics, but most importantly, it produces and sell 3D content that end up on those screens. And 3D has been “manna” for content producers like Sony. With in-theater “3D” gross margins that can be two times higher than “plain 2D” content, 3D technology “at home” is also expected to raise profits, possibly in a dramatic way.3D movies are harder to produce, but they are clearly not twice as expensive to make, and studios have rapidly learned how to film for 3D content in a way that is subtle. We’re not in the “pop out of the screen” phase anymore. And because 3D serves the story rather than distract from it, there’s a good chance that users will pay an extra.
But even with a more compelling experience, the pill (or the bill…) can be hard to swallow during difficult economic times. The experience is currently simply not compelling enough for consumers to massively jump in and buy/upgrade, like they did for flat screens and HD. Instead, many much prefer to wait for prices to eventually come down, and benefit from 3D, without paying a big extra.
There’s also the issue of the glasses. In 2010, most systems required using active LCD glasses that are expensive ($150 per pair) and mostly incompatible from one system to the next. 2011 will see the return of passive glasses that are much cheaper ($10). They will also work with other system (and in many theaters).
Sony has a double opportunity here, one that Samsung or LG will (probably) never have: they can do well by selling you the hardware (TV, portable player, camera, camcorder…) and the content. The latter is the most important part in my opinion because people keep consuming content, while they might buy a TV only every 5 to 8 years. But before Sony can sell you that 3D content, the company has to make the 3D “pitch” so compelling that you’ll eventually jump on board. That’s why every single aspect of the visual life has to go “3D” – this is why Sony is so obsessed with 3D. The company just can’t wait to have you onboard. If you’re not interested by 3D movies, you might jump in for the 3D photos, or 3D home movies. If you do it all with Sony, the experience will probably be more polished as well…
But are you ready for 3D? At what point will you join (if at all)? What should Sony do to convince you? Drop a comment and tell us what you think.