Manufacturers divided over 3D television

Manufacturers divided over 3D televisionBerlin  - Consumer electronics companies at the IFA trade show in Berlin are divided over the potential of three-dimensional television images, which require users to wear special spectacles to see the 3D illusion.

"Next year, television is going to change dramatically," said Yoshiiku Miyata, a Panasonic executive briefing reporters on the eve of the top fair, which began Friday and runs till September 9.

He declared Panasonic was in "pole position" as the first maker with a complete range of 3D technology, from production equipment for studios right through to consumer products under development.

Earlier this week, Sony chief executive Howard Stringer announced in Berlin his company's own venture into 3D, backed up by content from Sony's own Hollywood studio.

IFA is featuring a wide range of ever-better high-definition flat-panel televisions, but not 3D ones.

Dutch-based Philips questioned whether the technology, which it said it had helped to invent, was trouble free and whether viewers would bother to wear the special spectacles while relaxing at home.

"3D is a television viewer's dream. But the technology still does not operate stably," said Andrea Ragnetti, chief of Philips Consumer Lifestyle.

Ragnetti said there were some alternatives that did not require viewers to put on eyeglasses, but they were not yet ready for the market.

Samsung of South Korea was also circumspect, suggesting broadcasters and DVD vendors would take a long time to offer films in 3D.

An executive at IFA said Samsung had been quietly adding 3D technology to some of its high-end products since 2007 and aimed for an early lead.

"We are ready, so that when the content is developed, we will be waiting for it in the living room," said Michael Zoeller of Samsung.

It will not be cheap. Sony's chief for Europe, Fujio Nishida, conceded that 3D televisions were bound to be among the most expensive on store shelves.

Sony aims for a simultaneous launch in Japan, Europe and the United States.

He said more details would be announced at the other big industry fair, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) next January in Las Vegas.

Viewers are likely to be initially offered 3D movies on DVD, but the ultimate aim is clearly to offer live 3D coverage of football, baseball and basketball, giving the impression of being right there in the stadium.

Rob Enderle, a US analyst, voiced caution, saying in Berlin it could take up to seven years before the technology is mature. Moreover the Sony and Panasonic technologies are not compatible.

"The last thing we need is yet another war over formats," he said. (dpa)