3D laptops struggling to gain traction

3D laptop shipments have totaled about 100,000 this year, a fraction of the total PC market

3D laptop shipments have been slow this year, hindered by high prices and lack of consumer interest, according to research firm DisplaySearch.

Most of the 3D laptops are priced above $US1,000, which is much higher than the $600 to $800 consumers usually pay for standard laptops, said John Jacobs, director of notebook market research at DisplaySearch.

In tough economic times, asking for a $US200 to $300 premium just to watch a few hours of 3D movies on a laptop will make customers hesitant, Jacobs said Wednesday. Consumers may perhaps shell out up to $100 for 3D features on laptops for occasional use, but flinch at the idea of spending more.

"If there's a reason you buy a notebook, it is because you need a notebook, not because you need a 3D notebook," Jacobs said.

Roughly 100,000 3D laptops had shipped for the year until mid-September, Jacobs said. That is a very small segment of the laptop market, where shipments have so far tallied more than 100 million units.

PC makers are shipping a total of about 10,000 3D laptops per month. That number should rise to 30,000 each month as laptop purchases pick up during the holiday season. It will remain a niche market, however.

DisplaySearch, which issued a market report this week, is projecting 179,000 3D laptops to ship this year -- only 0.08 per cent of the total laptop market. The number should increase to 611,000 units next year, about 0.23 per cent of the market.

3D lacks content to justify a high premium, but more 3D games and movies are slowly making their way to smaller screens, Jacobs said. A number of companies are also providing technology to convert 2D content to 3D with the laptops.

Consumer electronics companies are releasing devices to produce 3D content, as well. Sony has said it is working on a 3D camera, while Panasonic recently demonstrated a 3D video camera. Fujifilm has already released a digital camera to take 3D pictures and video.

Users have voiced concerns about the inconvenience of wearing 3D glasses, but that specific problem doesn't seem to be affecting 3D laptop shipments.

"I have heard nothing to suggest that supply of the glasses is an issue. I think it has to do with lack of demand for these notebooks," Jacobs said.

Top PC makers like Acer, Asus, Lenovo and Toshiba rolled out 3D laptops earlier this year. The companies pitched the laptops as a way to redefine the entertainment experience at home. The laptops come with a 3D capable graphics card from either Nvidia or Advanced Micro Devices and 3D glasses.

3D laptops are mostly bought by enthusiasts like gamers, but even that market is very small, Jacobs said. Enthusiasts are still hesitant to pick up 3D laptops because of the poor resolutions of the screens, which are not designed for high-end gaming.

Most of laptops include 15.6-inch displays showing images at a 1366 by 768 pixel resolution, which is not enough for 3D gaming, Jacobs said. Gamers usually like laptops capable of handling full 1080p high-definition images, while most of the laptop are designed for 720p video.

"People can talk about 3D gaming and what not -- but gaming to me has been an immersive experience," Jacobs said.

Hewlett-Packard, however, hopes to change the game. The company is due to ship the Envy 17 3D laptop, which comes with a 17.3-inch display and is capable of playing Blu-ray 3D video. HP has said it hopes to price the laptop under $US2,000.

With slow growth in shipments projected over the next few years, the future of 3D laptops remains uncertain. Jacobs said. PC makers have to either recover from the 3D hype, or the laptops will continue to linger on as a top-of-the-line products for enthusiasts, he said.

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