Will 3D TV be Blu-ray's savior?

Panasonic's prototype 50in 3D plasma television - is it the next killer app?

Panasonic's unveiling of a 50-inch plasma TV that displays 3D images got me thinking: Is 3D the killer app that will make Blu-ray players popular in the home?

Panasonic's prototype HDTV, along with another 3D set from Sony, won't be available until sometime next year. Like most cutting-edge consumer tech gear, 3D TV will initially be targeted at home theater buffs -- those who strive to mimic the multiplex movie theater experience at home.

While the amount of 3D content is still small, Hollywood in recent years has boosted its output of 3D movies in an attempt to lure people into theaters. There will be around 7,000 3D screens by the end of 2009, according to Sony.

3D at Home

To watch 3D movies in the home, you'll need a 3D set, special glasses, and a probably a Blu-ray player, although the specifics with the movie studios haven't been worked out yet. Panasonic and Sony haven't announced prices for their 3D sets, but you can bet there will be a significant premium, at least initially.

Panasonic says it'll include special glasses with its 3D set, but it's unclear if that means one or several pairs. And what will the glasses cost? Most home theater fans will probably want 2 to 4 (or more) pairs of glasses, an expenditure that could add a lot of the 3D outlay.

If prices of 3D TVs fall rapidly -- and assuming the glasses aren't too pricey -- 3D entertainment could have a future in the home. In addition to movies, gaming is another realm where 3D has potential. Sony plans to add 3D capability to its PlayStation 3 console. And you can bet that Microsoft and Nintendo have similar intentions for the Xbox and Wii too.

Boon for Blu-ray?

3D would give consumers a strong reason to buy Blu-ray players. As things stand now, Blu-ray's better picture isn't a compelling enough reason for many people to upgrade from DVD. Assuming that video streaming services (and home broadband connections) won't have the bandwidth -- at least not right away -- for 3D content, Blu-ray might have a golden opportunity to invade the living room.

So, will 3D be Blu-ray's killer app?

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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Jeff Bertolucci

PC World (US online)
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