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CES press-conference day writeup: 3-D on your TV

LAS VEGAS--I can't start a description of press-conference day at the Consumer Electronics Show without noting an interruption in this usually tightly scripted day: the 23-minute delay to Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer's keynote presentation last night.

As you can read in last night's liveblog recap, an audience of thousands got to see the Vegas Hilton's A/V crew flick lights and screens on and off for 10 or so minutes, after which the keynote got off to a belated start -- and then screeched to a halt. I've seen at least two dozen of these things at various trade shows, and I've never seen one get off to such a snakebit start as last night's.


As for the rest of yesterday, the series of press conferences that preceded the keynote weren't as ... exciting but yielded plenty of good intelligence about the electronics industry. You should know that most TV manufacturers seem to think that you're going to want to trade up to a set that displays images in three dimensions, building on the December endorsement of a standard for 3-D video by the Blu-ray Disc Association. (As a recent viewer of "Avatar," I get the appeal of 3-D; as a recent buyer of an HDTV, I'm not quite interested in yet another upgrade. And you?) Those companies also have cheaper improvements in store -- for example, better Web-video options and the option of Skype videophone calls.

Read after the jump for my summary of each of the press conferences I attended yesterday (self-promotional note: to see these notes more or less as I write them, eyeball my Twitter feed:


LG plans to debut 47-in. and 55-in. 3-D sets later this year; the smaller set might sell for around $3,600, with the larger one retailing for another $700 or so. LG also showed off a set with an OLED (organic light-emitting diode) a prototype LED screen, pictured below, which measured only a quarter of an inch thick. And many of its sets will be Skype-capable.


(Fun fact: This Korean manufacturer must have annoyed somebody at the Consumer Electronics Association to draw its 8 a.m. timeslot.)

Toshiba also had a 3D pitch, touting a Cell TV (built on the same type of processor used in Sony's PlayStation 3) that can convert standard 2-D video to 3-D, smooth out jutters in fast-moving action with 480 Hz scanning (the 120 Hz scanning in numerous LCDs is generally considered good enough), play Web video througgh its built-in WiFi receiver and store data on a 1-terabyte hard drive. Nobody I spoke to at Toshiba would suggest a price, but if you have to ask...

Sharp surprised me by barely mentioning 3-D TV; its representatives only said the company would have a prototype model on display at its booth on the show floor. Instead, they spent most of their time talking up "quad-pixel" technology, which upcoming screens will use to add a fourth, yellow, color to each pixel (that is, picture element) on the screen in addition to the usual red, green and blue. Sharp also announced plans to add Netflix video streaming to its Internet-enabled TVs, its first venture into Web video on TV.

Samsung said a third of its 2010 sets would support 3-D. Its highest-end model, thanks to an LED backlight, will measure only .3 inches thick and will let you watch a second channel on a screen in the remote control. (No, I didn't make up that last detail.) It also plans to help developers write "Samsung Apps" that could run on its TVs, Blu-ray players and phones. And it will sell two e-book readers,one with a six-in. screen and another with a 10-in. display; they will have access to public-domain titles through Google Books, but Samsung didn't offer details about a source of current works.

Panasonic plans to sell four 3-D plasma TVs this year and also showed off a dual-lens professional 3-D camera that looked like a cousin of Pixar's trash-collecting robot Wall-E. It followed up by announcing a project with DirecTV to bring three 3-D channels to its service by summer. Panasonic's TVs, like those of LG, will also allow Skype Internet video calling with an add-on Web-cam and microphone module.


Sony made more of a splash with its 3-D pitch, bringing singer Taylor Swift on stage to perform a song--which its cameras then showed in 3-D on a backdrop screen that attendees watched with glasses Sony handed out for the occasion. Sony will sell a 3-D TV this summer and offer a firmware upgrade for its PlayStation 3 game console that will enable it to play 3-D Blu-ray discs. In other news, Sony announced the Dash, a tabletop "personal Internet viewer" that appears to duplicate the functions of many smartphones. And it noted that its upcoming cameras and camcorders will all include SD Card slots, which I have to read as the end of its proprietary Memory Stick format.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  January 7, 2010; 7:14 AM ET
Categories:  CES 2010 , TV  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Liveblogging the Steve Ballmer CES keynote (2010 edition) -- HP Slate, Bing, Blio and more
Next: How 3-D TV looks -- and works


3D TV, as a concept, seems like quadraphonic sound in the 70s: a technological advancement whose supposed benefits don't outweigh the added hassle & complications.

Posted by: Ronnie76 | January 7, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

I assume 3D-TV is at the same stage in 2010 as LCD-TV technology was in, say, the late '90s? When 3D-TV sets cost about the same as LCD sets cost today, I'll consider buying one. I don't mind waiting 10 years or more if necessary.

Posted by: Miles_Standish_Proud | January 7, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

I already wear glasses to watch tv....3D needs another pair....drek

Posted by: tbva | January 7, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Quadrophonic sound was just ahead of its time. Now 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound is commonplace. I think 3D-TV is in a similar spot. I think the key will be making it work without glasses, though. Even if the prices come down, too many people don't want to have to put on special glasses to watch it.

Posted by: dennis5 | January 7, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Surround sound is commonplace for movies, but it still doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense for audio. A very small number of bands (Pink Floyd comes to mind) have styles that are well suited to quadrophonic or surround sound. For everyone else it is a waste of effort.

I see 3D the same way.

Posted by: slar | January 7, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I'm not about to buy a 3D TV anytime soon even if the cost came down to that of today's LCD HD TVs.

Posted by: Arlington4 | January 7, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Might not LG's 8 am timeslot have something to do with letting the folks in the home office participate remotely?

Posted by: wdrudman | January 7, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I just read your post about trying 3D...I saw a reference to a fuzzy image without the glasses. Does this mean the tv picture on a 3D TV is only crisp if you wear the glasses? I had figured the pix would look like HD without glasses on and 3D only with glasses...

Posted by: tbva | January 8, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

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