After every major producer of 3D TVs saw less than expected sales last year, there seemed to be a savior with the advent of "glasses-free 3D" technology, which Toshiba showed off in late 2010. However, those sets aren't selling either. One of the big hassles that consumers have about 3D is that it's uncomfortable to have to wear 3D glasses. That's always a huge takeaway from focus groups, there have been editorials on it, and that's what people say at the point of purchase areas like Best Buy.
But that may not be what is actually preventing people from buying 3D TVs. It's like when Coca-Cola introduced New Coke. They had focus group data showing that consumers would be really intrigued to see a new Coke taste, so it seemed like a good idea. But the question no one asked was whether or not they would want to outright replace the existing Coke beverage.
So focus group data can be tricky. It looks like no one really asked, "If you didn't have to wear glasses, would that change your mind about buying a 3D TV?" Because apparently the answer is no.
Toshiba's sales of its glasses-free 3D in Japan over the holidays were lower than the company's forecast. In fact, only 500 of the 20-inch units were sold. Even fewer of the 12-inch models were.
Of course, for such small TVs they were ridiculously expensive, as much as $3,500 for a 20-inch TV.
But the real problem is people just don't see any value in 3D TV in their home. There isn't a whole lot of content, everything is more expensive, and many people use their TVs as a background source of entertainment these days. It's different than a movie theater where you are glued to the action and anything to heighten the experience is welcomed.
Toshiba says it is still interested in glasses-free 3D, and believes as soon as it lowers costs and offers bigger TVs, interest will rise.
We'll see about that.