3DTV hits US with major discounts

Three-dimensional television is hitting BestBuy this week — and it’s coming in cheaper than expected.

Sales and demos begin this Wednesday with Panasonic’s VT25 bundle. That includes a 50 inch plasma screen, a Blu-ray player, and a pair of active glasses. The system works by the glass lenses alternately dimming (hence “active”) in sync with the screen alternating between images aimed at the left and right eye.

The package only comes with one pair of glasses. That may seem mean, but the logic may well be that early adopters are likely to be single people who have disposable cash to spend on gadgets rather than bringing up children. (There are plans for 3D technology which doesn’t need glasses, but at the moment those systems severely limit the viewing angles.)

The big news is that while an equivalent package currently retails in Japan for 43,000 yen (around US$4,800), the US price is expected to be in the $2,500 to $3,000 range. The Wall Street Journal believes it’s a Panasonic strategy to try and spark interest in the technology. That certainly seems to make sense as a broader user base will help get over the chicken-and-egg situation of content providers being hesitant to produce 3D footage until there’s a big enough audience, but users being wary about getting sets until there’s enough footage to make it worthwhile.

The Best Buy displays will initially be in around 100 major stores before being rolled out to 1,000 stores across the country. Panasonic hopes to sell a million 3D sets this year, half of them in the US.

Samsung is also set to unveil sets at Best Buy from 21 March, with LG and Sony also planning US released in 2010.