TOKYO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sony and Samsung announced plans to introduce 3D televisions in coming months, betting they will become the next hot products in an increasingly crowded electronics industry.
Sony Corp hopes 3D models will make up 10 percent of more than 25 million LCD TVs it aims to sell in the next fiscal year. The maker of the PlayStation 3 game console also plans to release 3D game software in time for its 3D TV launch in June.
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, the industry leader for flat-screen TVs, will begin U.S. sales of 46- and 55-inch 3D TVs this month, with other models coming over the next several months.
"It will likely be ardent game players who will first buy 3D TVs as an early adopter," said analyst Alex Oh of Hanwha Securities in Seoul. "In that sense, Sony, which is envisioning a comprehensive entertainment company, will take advantage of its game business, contents and movies, compared with Samsung and LG, which remain focused on hardware."
Sony is vying with LG Electronics Inc for the position as the world's No. 2 flat TV maker. Many manufacturers hope the technology will be as big a boost for the industry as the transition to color TVs from black and white.
But many consumers have only just bought new high-definition TVs, and analysts say they are unwilling to spend on another upgrade any time soon, especially when viewers must wear special glasses to see images in 3D.
There is also a dearth of 3D programing. Addressing that concern, Samsung said everyone who buys one of its 2010 3D TVs and 3D Blu-ray Player or home theater system will get a kit that includes viewing glasses and a 3D version of "Monsters vs. Aliens," under a deal with DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc.
DreamWorks said its "Shrek" movie series would be available to Samsung 3D customers during the second half of 2010.
Last month, Samsung started offering 3D TVs in South Korea and said it would launch them globally this month, with the aim of selling at least 2 million this year.
Panasonic Corp, the fourth-largest flat-screen TV maker, plans to introduce its 3D TVs in the United States on Wednesday. It said it would cooperate with top U.S. electronics retailer Best Buy Co in promoting them.
FROM THEATER TO LIVING ROOM
The science-fiction blockbuster "Avatar" and other recent films have sparked massive interest in 3D movies, and electronics makers are rushing to bring the hardware to market.
"We at Sony will liberate 3D from the confines of movie theaters and make it something that people can enjoy at home," Sony Senior Vice President Yoshihisa Ishida told a news conference on Tuesday.
Sony Chief Executive Officer Howard Stringer holds high hopes of a shift to 3D as it would probably give a boost to many of the company's operations, which include TVs, digital cameras, Blu-ray DVD players and videogames.
Sony will begin selling 3D TVs in Japan on June 10 and overseas around the same time. The electronics and entertainment conglomerate expects a model with a 46-inch screen, including two pairs of 3D glasses, to sell for 350,000 yen ($3,875), 52 percent more than its latest regular LCD TV with a comparable screen size.
Samsung's U.S. unit said its 46-inch 3D LCD model will sell for about $1,700, while a 63-inch 3D plasma TV will go for $6,800. Both will be available in May.
Following the midday announcement in Tokyo, shares of Sony extended recent gains and ended up 1.1 percent at 3,330 yen, a 17-month closing high. The benchmark Nikkei average fell 0.2 percent. Sony's U.S. shares were up 1.4 percent at $37.28 in afternoon trading in New York.
Global demand for 3D TVs will probably reach 15.6 million units in 2013 from an estimated 1.2 million this year, according to research firm DisplaySearch. That figure could reach 64 million in 2018, when the research firm expects total revenues to hit $17 billion.
LCD TV shipments reached 146 million units in 2009, according to DisplaySearch.
($1 = 90.31 yen)