Samsung begins mass producing 3D TV screens

The move means 3D TV is on the way and prices will start to come down

Samsung Electronics announced Wednesday it had started mass production of screens for 3D LED TVs and 3D LCD TVs, a bold move forward in a technology some analysts say is too expensive for most people and could take time to become mainstream.

Samsung is the world's largest maker of flat display screens, and putting new technologies into mass production is the first step in lowering prices. The more a company makes, the less they cost per-unit.

"Recently, 3D displays have captured the industry spotlight. Samsung Electronics aims to lead the global 3D TV panel market in pioneering mass production for 3D LED and LCD TVs," the company said in a statement.

The company began producing 3D-compatible LED and LCD screens for 40-inch, 46-inch and 55-inch full-HD 3D TVs this month, it said.

Several companies announced 3D-ready TVs at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas early this month, making it one of the most talked about product categories at the show. The popularity of James Cameron's 3D film, "Avatar," which recently surpassed "Titanic" as the highest-grossing box office hit ever, fueled much of the hype and led some companies to predict that millions of 3D TVs will be sold by the end of this year.

In a report aimed at dispelling the idea that 3D TV might go mainstream this year, James McQuivey, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, pointed out the heavy cost of the new technology both for consumers and for industry.

"Everybody just bought a new TV. Between 2007 and 2009, over 40 million HD TVs were sold in the U.S., most of them close to or below $1,000," he said, questioning why people will want to shell out another few thousand dollars on a new TV so soon. He also said industry will have to provide more 3D TV content, including programming and movies to entice people to buy a 3D TV.

One 3D home entertainment system at CES cost nearly $4,000 and did not include a 3D Blu-ray Disc player.

Samsung's move to mass-produce 3D TV screens is a start on the road to lower prices, and the availability of 3D-ready TVs gives people a choice to buy now and wait for more 3D content to become available.

McQuivey is optimistic about 3D TV over the long term, but he believes it will take up to another 10 years for the right environment to be in place for 3D TV to go mainstream. The current hype over 3D TV simply marks a beginning of the journey.

The LED TVs with 3D capability from Samsung include its LED7000 series and above, and 750 Series LCD TVs. The 3D LED TVs have LED (light emitting diode) backlights, which provide greater color saturation and energy savings than older CCFL (Cold cathode fluorescent lamp) technology.

Glasses for 3D viewing are required to watch the 3D effect on the TVs.

The glasses, a product Samsung also sells, are one item analysts and industry watchers point to as a problem for 3D TV. Many people don't want to wear 3D glasses when they watch TV at home, and may not want to buy several additional pairs at the US$70 to $100 price tags some companies quoted just so friends can watch a movie or sporting event such as the World Cup or Super Bowl in 3D with them.

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Dan Nystedt

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