Toshiba’s glasses-free 3-D TVs flop


Toshiba Corp., the first maker of 3-D televisions that don’t require the use of special glasses, sold fewer than half the sets it targeted in the initial month of sales.

Toshiba, which began offering the TVs in late December, sold 500 of the 20-inch model at about ¥240,000 each, and even fewer of the cheaper 12-inch set, Masaaki Osumi, president of Toshiba’s Visual Products Company, said in a recent interview. The Tokyo-based company, which ranks second in Japan in TV sales, had planned to sell 1,000 units of each model a month.

The slower-than-anticipated debut indicates the company needs to offer larger sets to appeal to consumers, Osumi said. Toshiba joins Samsung Electronics Co. and Sony Corp., which began selling their own 3-D models last year, in saying demand has lagged expectations, damping optimism consumers will embrace the technology and help TV makers revive profits.

“What the numbers say to me is that if you offer bigger sets, you get a better, more positive reaction,” Osumi, 56, said.

Sony Chief Financial Officer Masaru Kato said in October sales of 3-D sets, projected to account for 10 percent of the company’s 25 million annual TV sales target, were trailing expectations. Samsung, the world’s largest TV maker, said last month that demand for displays used in 3-D sets was “relatively weak.”

Engineers at Toshiba, which displayed 56-inch and 65-inch prototypes at last month’s International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, are racing to overcome a “mountain” of technical problems to market large-screen models to consumers in the second half of the year, Osumi said.

While the 3-D TVs from Samsung, Sony and Panasonic Corp. use electronic glasses that flicker between the left and right eyes to create the illusion of depth, Toshiba’s technology uses a sheet on the TV screen to angle pictures, making each eye see different images.