Blu-ray's problem is simple: Blu-ray's crisper picture isn't enough for recession-whacked consumers. Yet the demo I saw last week in Las Vegas was something else: beautifully detailed and very watchable high def 3D.
That's a change you'd pay for.
Panasonic is pushing hard. The demo at this year's National Association of Broadcasters trade show was one of many 3D announcements and products. But it was the most important because in our consumer-driven economy it is the home theater, not the movie theater, that will make or break the latest 3D push.
I've played with a number of 3D displays over the years and the Panasonic blew the rest away. Other than some distortion when a leg or arm got too close the camera, the picture was the closest thing to real live I've seen on a display.
The big win: 3D sports. You can really see where the ball is on the field. It may not get rid of all those "from this angle" replays, but fans will love seeing how close a receiver's fingers are to the ball.
Panasonic is pushing the industry to settle on standards for 3D so the market can move forward. They promise that their 3D plasma screens won't cost much more than current designs. A 58" 480 Hz - meaning 240 Hz for each eye, double most LCD refresh rates - plasma is available today for $3500.
What about those bulky glasses? The LCD shutter glasses need some work for eyeglass wearers. The wireless ones are about $80 retail, while wired ones - much lighter - are about $25. With the picture quality they give most people will be fine with them.
A bigger issue for some is that not many projectors are 3D compatible and most of those that are are DLP, which typically don't give much placement flexibility. A 58" plasma is nice, but I really like my 10' screen.
The Storage Bits take HD 3D needs Blu-ray's capacity and bandwidth. The big question is whether the consumer electronics industry can get behind a single 3D standard and persuade people to buy.
As the fight between HD DVD and Blu-ray showed the engineers can lose sight of the bigger picture: consumer acceptance. The networks, producers, cable and satellite providers as well as set vendors need to cooperate. If they don't consumers will stay away.
The movie companies are doing good 3D, especially with 3D animation, but more production needs to be done. How about next year's Superbowl in 3D?
That could put 3D - and Blu-ray - over the top.
Comments welcome, of course. I'd like to see Blu-ray succeed. I hope the industry will put aside their technopartisan squabbling and give consumers something new and cool to buy.