I think in some ways, Microsoft's Xbox 360 heralded the modern HD era of entertainment, being the first consumer device which both insisted upon itself on being part of the high def generation, but also one that was massively adopted by consumers.
Course, much of HD adoption wasn't the rosy path either Microsoft, Sony, or the other players, wanted it to be - which to bring it back to gaming aided a certain company rhyming with Mintendo by being cheap and easy to use on existing standard def sets. However, by May 2009, nearly half of homeowners have a high def set, a 12% increase from the previous year. The dust has settled on the format war, players are getting quickly cheaper and there are more and more viewing options are becoming available.
So, just as the smoke begins to clear - the industry is trying to carve the next, um, next-generation. HD is old. 3D is new:
In part, we have James Cameron to blame. He has been spearheading a movement in cinema for a while now, trying to prove that 3D has evolved past the gimmick stage and deserves to become the forefront of movie making technology. It doesn't hurt, of course, that the movie industry has been getting kicked in the shins with piracy and low ticket sales - both things that moviemakers hope 3D can help address. See, you can't simply sneak a camcorder into a theater, burn it and sell it if that theater is playing a 3D version. Add in the additional draw (and potentially the jacked up price) and you have a very happy theater owner.
The game industry has been making similar noises, although probably with a slightly different set of motives. With Moore's Law no longer being the prime mover for selling new games, or to put it another way - you can't be sure of a bestseller by trying to outperform yesterday's graphics anymore - game producers would love to have a technical solution to spike some sales. Long term gamers will realize, of course, that they have been here before, and honestly we'll need to see some better demonstrations to decide if goofy looking glasses are worth playing the game.
All of this, of course, translates into apparently an entirely new set of hardware:
Ahem. Firstly - a new HDMI cable? Wasn't HDMI supposed to be something of the end all, be all, for media cables?
But that's being nitpicky. I think the holes in the 3D theory are a bit more expansive than just the cables.
First - I find it doubtful that piracy will be so quickly subdued. It's been a circular technological war since the onset, and will continue to do so. Second, it seems unlikely that 3D is going to be a massive hit outside certain genres. I could be wrong, of course - perhaps seeing a lame romantic comedy with an additional dimension will make it slightly less lame - but I certainly don't see dishing any extra dollars to see it that.
Finally, HD was a far harder sell than the industry assumed it would be - partially due to high prices and partially due to a needless format war. There's nothing to say that a 3D generation wouldn't face similar, or worse, issues - especially considering we don't have any ready to market sets to examine at this point. Especially since I would challenge that "nearly half" equates to "widespread adoption", and adding in consumer fatigue from the fact that half them would have sets less than ten years old (my last TV I got from my first corporate job out after college, not that I'll admit here how long that was) - I think anything less than a decade is pretty optimistic.
Also, how hard of a sell will it be to convince consumers they need new hardware to make use of a feature which has been around since the 50's?
In general, I think the industry may be getting a little ahead of itself here.