3D A Relative Flop, TV Manufacturers Talk Up Apps

What do you do when you hype up a relatively nascent video technology that is intrinsically unpopular because of the anti-social tendencies foisted upon its customers as well as the perception that it’s “Just a gimmick?” Pretend it never existed and add on another gimmick!

CES is coming up in January and expect the run up to include almost no talk of 3D TV and plenty of talk about “apps” for your TV. Why? Because rather than try to upsell on hardware, CE manufacturers can now gain through affiliate deals with content providers and try to create their own app stores.

With rumors of the iTV swirling about in CE manufacturers heads and with the numbers getting more and more ridiculous (1 million to one contrast ratios! An extra green pixel!), they know the probability of differentiating their products in the marketplace is swiftly approaching zero. While 3D will now be technically a sales point, many 3D devices are 3D because they “support” 3D media, not that they can play back 3D. Take Samsung’s new portable Blu-Ray player, for example:

The Samsung BD-C8000 portable Blu-ray Player offers Internet@TV, which delivers the best of the web, straight to your HDTV, with downloadable widgets and apps like BLOCKBUSTER®, Facebook®, YouTube™, Twitter™, Flickr™, Pandora and more. You can shop online, share pictures, catch up with friends and connect to a wide range of streaming digital content at the touch of a button. It also has wireless LAN built-in. Add to that AllShare™, which enables content to be seamlessly streamed between DLNA® devices, allowing you to play files stored on your PC.

Nary a mention of 3D. Just wireless capabilities, Pandora, and all the buzzwords you could desire. Sure the player technically plays back 3D but it can’t on the screen it uses and what they heck are you going to watch? The World Cup in 3D is over and Avatar is getting really boring.

Content providers dropped the ball on 3D. After extensive backlash against titles like Clash of the Titans and garbage like G-Force in 3D, the assumption was that 3D was greasy kids stuff. Add in the anti-social nature of 3D and the multiple pairs of glasses needed to actually watch with a family of four or more, and you’ve got a pricey proposition. 3D is the LaserDisc of this era – it’s an interstitial technology that is good in some ways (3D solo PC gaming is amazing) and horrible in others.

The widgets and apps (think weather widgets and porn streaming apps), on the other hand, will add features found in boxes from Roku and Western Digital as well as the new Apple TV to work right inside the TV without extra devices. This is a dangerous proposition: I’d never trust TV manufacturers to future-proof these “OSes” or app stores and I’d expect to see a graveyard of dead widgets appearing on TVs bought in the next five years as companies give up on maintaining their stores.

Anyway, look for widgets and whoozits and whatzits to start popping up on TVs and – this will be hilarious – watch for app store wars among the various CE manufacturers. If they can’t get you to upgrade to watch blue monsters run around in 3D, maybe they can convince you with on-demand porn and Pandora.