LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics trotted out bigger and thinner 3D TVs on Wednesday as they laid out plans to expand their lineups further to spur demand for a nascent technology that has seen weak sales so far.
Global major TV makers are betting aggressively on 3D and Internet-connected televisions as intense price competition in the flat-panel market erodes profitability.
But it remains unclear if sales of these newest TVs will take off. Sales of much-hyped 3D and connected TVs failed to meet expectations last year, with available content still sparse and many consumers holding off on purchases after having just upgraded to their first flat-screen sets.
Some producers, led by Japan’s Toshiba, are introducing glasses-free 3D sets, which could also deter consumers from switching to 3D sets by stoking expectations such technology may come soon.
“Our 3D models were limited to three last year and they were mainly aimed at the high-end segment. We plan to extend lineups to offer more affordable products,” Lee Kyung-shik, vice president of Samsung’s TV business, said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
LG Electronics will introduce six 3D product lineups this year and aggressively push for a new 3D technology to challenge bigger rival Samsung, and to make the premium segment more affordable.
It introduced a set that uses a new display called film patterend retarder (FPR), developed by affiliate LG Display, the world’s No.2 maker of liquid crystal displays.
LG said the new technology will address consumer concerns over blurry and flickering images that previous 3D technology gained notoriety for, and yield glasses two to three times lighter than previous bulky eyewear and free of signal chips, chargers or power switches.
“This year we’ll be introducing a new type of 3D technology...offering a wide range of angles, brighter pictures and zero flickering. Glasses are light at 16 grams and you never need charging... This is not just marketing talk,” LG Electronics Chief Technology Officer Skott Ahn told reporters.
On top of a lack of available content, the need for special glasses has been a major factor hindering sales of 3D TVs, but rival companies have said the viewing angle for glasses-free technology is now too restrictive.
But LG Display said it has already forged supply deals for its new 3D panels with LG Electronics, Vizio Inc, Philips Electronics and Toshiba, raising the stakes in a head-on competition with Samsung, the world’s top maker of TV and LCD screen.
LG Display expects the 3D TV market to grow sharply this year to account for more than 10 percent of total LCD TV shipments, which are estimated at 220 million units.
LG Electronics, the No.2 flat screen TV maker, is also making a big push toward 3D and connected television to meet its 40 million-unit target for flat-screen TV sales this year.
In Las Vegas, LG introduced an add-on upgrade box, which allows consumers with conventional TVs to transform their sets into connected TVs, targeting those who may have just bought their flat-screen TVs in recent years and don’t want to spend again to snap up new televisions.
Editing by Edwin Chan and Anshuman Daga