By Jacqueline Emigh | Friday, August 13, 2010 at 9:48 am
With the vast bulk of the still very emerging 3D TV market in its veritable hands, Samsung plans to place 3D TVs in more people’s living rooms by bringing out more entertainment content and less costly equipment. At an event this week in New York City, the consumer electronics maker did just that.
Many who got the mysteriously worded invitation expected to see the rollout of Samsung’s rumored tablet. Samsung instead presented the world’s first portable Blu-ray player with 3D output, a gadget that looks a lot like a netbook except for the DVD slot on the right-hand side.
Samsung also rolled out three new plasma 3D TVs–including a 50-inch entry in the Plasma C490 Series, the first 3DTV from Samsung in the $1,100 bracket–along with an LED 3D TV, a far pricier 65-inch model in the LED C8000 Series which goes for around $6,000.
Samsung also gave the first public demos of a new software application for iPhones and some Samsung phones – recently issued quietly in “soft release” – that lets you remotely control a Samsung TV from a smartphone. Editions for other phone platforms will follow, said Olivier Manuel, director of content in Samsung’s Consumer Electronics Division, speaking with me at the event.
Also new are two more software apps for Samsung TVs: 3D Video On-Demand, for sneak previews of forthcoming 3D movies, and ESPN Next Level. The apps work only on Samsung’s highest-end “Internet-connected” HDTVs.
“We’re the only manufacturer [of Web-enabled TVs] to have real applications. The rest just have widgets,” Manuel contended.
ESPN Next Level, for example, lets you research players and check out predictive picks in a smaller window while you watch a game on the remainder of a large flat panel TV. To spur more app development for its TVs, Samsung this week announced a developers contest with half a million dollars in total prizes.
Samsung wants vendors to tweak existing apps–even business apps–to run on its TVs, Manuel told me. Samsung’s developers’ kit supports Java and Adobe Flash Lite, and Samsung is even contemplating the possibility much further down the road of apps that will run across TVs as well as other platforms, such as smartphones.
The 3D Blu-ray player introduced this week, the BD-C8000, lets you play back content either from a Samsung app or a Blu-ray DVD remotely on a Samsung HDTV when the two machines are connected over WiFi and HDMI.
Yet while the 3D player allow you to send 3D content to the TV, you can only view video in 2D on the player’s 10.3-inch screen, said Steve G. Panosian, Samsung’s director of marketing for Samsung’s DLP and plasma HDTV visual display products.
3D TV is a very big deal for Samsung indeed. This week’s event marked the second 3D TV-centric press conference to be hosted by Samsung in New York since March.
Market statistics are hard to come by, but Korean newspaper Chosun reported in June that Samsung has sold 270,000 of the 300,000 3D TVs actually purchased so far around the world. Based on those numbers, some analysts figure that Samsung currently owns a commanding 90 percent of the 3D TV market.
Earlier this summer, Samsung 3D TV competitor Panasonic unveiled a partnership with DirecTV that’s resulted in a suite of three dedicated 3D channels. Those two companies are also working together on 3D content development.
Cable TV providers are also putting together 3D-only channels, noted Bill Hadam, Samsung’s director of marketing for Digital Audio/Video, during another interview at the Samsung event. Yet Hadam even wishes that other manufacturers would get more active in 3D, to help grow the whole market.
Hadam told me that, despite the 2010 product announcements, 2011 will be the year when 3D TV starts to hit the mainstream market. “Consumers will begin to ‘get it’ about 3D in 2011, just as they’ve already ‘gotten it’ about HDTV,” Hadam said. As with HDTV, continuing price drops on 3D TV will help considerably, he predicted.
Yet Hadam also acknowledged that, at this point, 3D TV faces one challenge unknown to 2D HDTV: the aversion that a lot of people still feel to wearing 3D glasses in their homes.