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Published: Thursday, 3/11/2010

3-D TV sets may go on sale in Toledo area in 2 weeks

FROM BLADE STAFF AND NEWS SERVICES

Sales of 3-D televisions for home use in the United States began yesterday with a New York event, but Toledo-area customers may get a chance to buy the sets within two weeks.

The sets, which would require viewers to wear the special glasses to get the 3-D effect, will cost about $3,000 to more than $6,000, depending on the screen size.

Japan's Panasonic Corp. yesterday revealed its $2,900 price on the sets at an event in New York. It is partnering with Best Buy stores and expects to have them on sale the week of March 21.

South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co., the world's best-selling TV maker, began selling 3-D units in South Korea last month and said it would start sales this week in the United States. LG Electronics Inc. plans to start sales in May and Japan's Sony Corp. said it will start sales June.

The TV makers are trying to convince consumers to embrace the technology for their living rooms, despite the price tags of the sets. The sets should enhance video game playing.

Interest in 3-D has accelerated recently with the help of three-dimensional movie blockbusters such as Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, which earned a record $116.3 million in its opening weekend. More 3-D movies will come out this year.

A Toledo-area Best Buy store manager said some Samsung brand 3-D televisions have arrived at the local stores and Panasonic brands will arrive soon. But the special 3-D glasses needed for the TV sets have not arrived and the new TVs have yet to be displayed.

The electronics store chain said on its Web site it will have Samsung 3-D TVs in more than 900 stores starting March 21 and 250 stores also will have Panasonic sets.

Jim Grzywinski, general manager of the Appliance Center store in Maumee, said his store has been told it will receive Samsung and Sony HD 3-D TVs next week. "It's going to be a pretty big deal, especially for the game players," he said.

Industry analyst Alex Oh of Hanwha Securities in Seoul said: "It will likely be ardent game players who will first buy 3D TVs as an early adopter."

Panasonic had a suggested retail price of $2,900 for a 50-inch plasma set, one pair of glasses, and a 3-D Blu-ray player. An extra pair of glasses costs $150.

Samsung, which expects to sell 2 million 3-D sets worldwide this year, said its 46-inch set, two pairs of glasses, a 3-D Blu-ray player, and a 3-D copy of Monsters vs. Aliens will sell for $3,000. It will sell the set alone for $1,700. Its 55-inch set alone will sell for $3,300 and its 63-inch 3D plasma TV will go for $6,800.

Sony said it would start selling 3-D TVs in June in Japan and in July in the United States. The company, known for its PlayStation 3 game consoles and Bravia flat-screen TVs, will offer its fully capable 3-D TV model in four sizes. The 40-inch and 46-inch versions will go on sale in June, the 52 and 60-inch TVs in July. The 40-inch sets will cost about $3,200 and the 60-inch will cost $6,400.

Included are two pairs of Sony's 3-D glasses, as well as a camera sensor on each unit that will adjust sound and picture quality based on viewers' positions. A remote-control button enables the switch from a regular 2-D image to 3-D.

To stand out, Sony plans to exploit its strengths in entertainment, gaming, and other products to offer customers a broad selection of 3-D content. The company will release a firmware update to its PlayStation 3 console this summer, making three-dimensional gaming a reality.

The company hopes that 10 percent of the 25 million TVs it aims to sell next fiscal year will be 3-D units.

But analysts question the sales expectations. 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 3-D.

Plus, the limited amount of 3-D movies and programming should hinder sales, analysts say.



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