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3D May Give DLP a Second Wind

Rear-projection HDTV sets with digital light processing (DLP) technology have been overshadowed in recent years by ever-lighter and thinner flat-panel LCD and plasma displays, and the new ability of flat-panel sets to display stereoscopic 3D images is expected to further boost their sales in 2010. But Mitsubishi, which still makes several lines of large-screen DLP sets in addition to new LCD displays with LED (light-emitting diode) backlighting, sees 3D as a big opportunity to breathe new life into the DLP category.

The Japanese conglomerate, which makes everything from automobiles to air conditioners but is still a niche player in the U.S. television-set market, has been selling 3D-capable DLP sets since 2007 and estimates that it already has a million 3D-capable sets out in the marketplace. And it is pitching its newest 3D DLP models, which range in screen sizes from 60 to 82" and prices from $1199 up to $4499, as a more cost-effective way to create a theater-like 3D experience in the home than flat-panel displays.

For example, last week in New York Mitsubishi demonstrated a 73" inch 3D DLP set that lists for $2799, which is about the same price of a 46" LED 3D model (plasma 3Ds are slightly cheaper).

"3D is a huge value story with DLP," says Nick Norton, senior manager of brand marketing for Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America. "It's resurrected the category to some extent."

Mitsubishi plans to highlight the value proposition of 3D DLP with a 30-second 3D spot that should hit digital cinemas this summer; theater-goers will get a coupon for a discount on a new set. Norton expects his company's DLP sets will account for about 20% of the 2 million 3D sets he predicts will be sold this year.

Perhaps more important, Mitsubishi has created a $99 adapter that will allow its older DLP models to display new 3D channels from ESPN and DirecTV, as well as movies from new 3D Blu-ray Disc players. The adapter takes the side-by-side and other frame-compatible 3D formats and converts them to the checkerboard format that DLP sets use to display 3D.

3D-capable sets still need an emitter and active-shutter glasses, which cost $149 apiece, to enable 3D viewing. To that end, Mitsubishi is now marketing a "3D Starter Pack" that contains two pairs of active shutter 3D eyewear, a 3D emitter, 3D Adapter with remote, an HDMI cable, and a Blu-ray disc featuring 3D trailers of Disney movies "A Christmas Carol", "Alice In Wonderland" and "Toy Story 3". The Starter Pack will be available at retail in July for $399.