Sony Corporation (ADR) (SNE), Panasonic Corporation (ADR) (PC): Will 3-D TVs Become the Betamax of the 21st Century?

One thing was very noticeable at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES): last year’s CES darling, the 3-D TV, was sporting a much lower profile. While consumers were excited about the prospect of watching the Super Bowl in 3-D from the comfort of their sofas, the idea of sitting around for hours wearing goofy paper glasses was…shall we say…less than appealing.

ony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE)Investors have been closely watching the evolution of electronics. TVs are getting slimmer, while displays are becoming more vivid. Last year, investors kept an eye on the attention 3-D TVs received at CES, noting the electronics manufacturers who were being especially innovative in the field. However, as 2012 drew to a close, the buzz surrounding 3-D TVs seemed to be dwindling, and by 2013’s CES analysts were speculating on the future of the technology.

The real star at CES 2013 was OLED, but 3-D TVs still had a place. Only the 3-D TVs that had investors talking were impressive because they don’t require glasses. Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV (ADR) (NYSE:PHG) wowed crowds with its glasses-free prototype, a 60″ Ultra HD model that shows little difference in picture sharpness between 2D and 3D modes, according to TechRadar. This innovative spirit is paying off–Philips’ sales were up 4 percent in 2012.

But for investors, the technology to watch is OLED, a television that provides a crisp, clean image using organic light-emitting diodes. Philips doesn’t yet sell OLED, but is expected to debut its first OLED prototype at IFA 2012. LG, however, is currently accepting pre-orders for OLED TVs, and was surprised at the overwhelming response. LG has long been a leader in electronics, becoming the second-largest mobile electronics provider in the U.S.

LG knows OLED is the future, but the company acknowledges that the $12,000 price tag for OLED TVs can be a bit out-of-reach. For that reason, LG is also putting effort into its LCD models, including its smart TVs, implementing technology that many investors know is integral to the success of electronics companies today. Utilizing such interactive features as a motion-technology remote and a home dashboard, LG’s smart TV is on the cutting edge of television today.