Has the S3D Monitor Market Been and Gone Already?

By Bob Raikes
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DisplaySearch vice president Chris Connery has said that the market for stereo 3D monitors may be ‘come and gone already’. In a blog post to the group’s website, Connery said that while there is an ‘uncertainty’ over the timing for mainstream S3D TVs in the home, the market for S3D monitors represents a ’rounding error’ at present. He said that just 3,500 S3D monitors were sold through major retailers across the whole of America in the first half of 2010, and that there were just 11 models on the market boasting Nvidia graphics. Connery said that this accounts for just 0.1% of all shipped desktop monitors.

“Throughout the PC display industry, it seems that the excitement for 3D is fading,” wrote Connery. “Nvidia, which once was aggressive in working with monitor brands to develop 120Hz desktop monitor solutions, seems to have shifted away from desktop 3D solutions to focus more on 3D in other areas. Other companies, such as iZ3D, have pulled out of producing monitors to focus on software and glasses. We have no major 3D AIO (All-In-One) solution in any region, and it even seems that 3D for portable personal computing may also be fading”.

Meko thinks that more than this number is being shipped in Europe, but it’s in the same order of magnitude. We contacted Chris who confirmed that he is very confident about his numbers, which are based on NPD data. Additional channels might boost the number to 5,000 per quarter. So where are the 100,000 glasses that Nvidia said it had sold when we saw the company at the US FPD conference in March? We also heard from other sources that the firm is saying that it has sold around another 100,000 since then.

Well, first, the NPD data is ‘sell through’ and not ‘sell in’ so, no doubt some of the sales from Nvidia are in inventory and being used for demonstrations and also are only for desktop monitors. The Nvidia glasses also work with notebooks and TVs, although Jon Jacobs, who reports on notebooks for DisplaySearch is not over-optimistic about 3D notebooks. Nevertheless, he estimates that around 100,000 3D notebooks were shipped worldwide in the year to the end of September and the number could rise to 30,000 per month as we get towards the holiday season. Of course, not all of these are Nvidia-based. But the numbers do start to look reasonably consistent if you add in notebooks. Nvidia is also working with TV makers (including 3D promoter, Panasonic), but in this case, we’d expect most of the glasses to be supplied by the set maker.

This week I had the chance to go to a MediaMarkt store in Germany that had a dedicated area for 3D gaming, part of an area devoted to PC gaming. At least the glasses there were working, although the ones in the TV department were not. The main problem was that the lighting in the store was very bright and the monitor didn’t look very bright (it was a Samsung). Adding the 3D glasses made the picture seem very dim. At home, in normal or subdued lighting, this would not be a problem, but consumers don’t buy at home! A couple of the vendors of 3D monitors that we spoke to last week in Europe said that although sales were not huge, they were steady, useful and growing.

I was very optimistic about the opportunity for 3D PC gaming, and I remain so. However, there was relatively little emphasis at the big PC games event that Doug attended in Cologne this summer. I still think there is a good potential for those that stick with 3D for gaming!

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