TV-maker Vizio wants to become a poor man's Apple. At CES it will introduce an Android-running tablet and smartphone, both aggressively priced.
Apple will soon have an aggressive new competitor in low-priced television
maker Vizio. On Jan. 3, in advance of the Consumer Electronics Show, the
company is expected to announce its entrance into the mobile-device market with
the introduction of an Android-running smartphone and tablet, according to
In a television ad during the broadcast of the Rose Bowl Jan. 1, Randy
Waynick, Vizio chief sales officer, said that America's
No. 1 LCD HDTV company plans to offer
entertainment freedom for all. Sitting in an empty Rose Bowl stadium, Waynick
is shown holding a black-framed tablet with a very Apple iPad-like appearance.
According to the Wall
, the device, called the Via Tablet, will have an 8-inch,
high-resolution display; offer WiFi connectivity; and have a front-facing
camera for video conferencing and three speakers.
The smartphone, called the Via Phone, will have a 4-inch display, a
rear-facing, 5-megapixel camera with video capabilities and a front-facing
camera for video calls. Both devices will also have HDMI (High-Definition
Multimedia Interface) ports, run Android and arrive this summer.
The company didn't share pricing details, wanting to save some surprises for
its Jan 3 announcement, but it has made clear its intentions to be a sort of
poor-man's Apple, offering somewhat comparable devices at significantly lower
prices, just as it has in the television world, battling against-and sometimes
besting-electronics giant Samsung. As a company with fewer than 500 employees
and shipping more LCD TVs worldwide than its competitors, Vizio, said Pund-IT
analyst Charles King, qualifies as a powerful example of what can be
accomplished by a small but forward-thinking vendor.
According to the Journal, Vizio developed the products with a team of fewer
than 10 people and specialists it hired from Nokia.
By kicking out its product introduction to this summer, Vizio should be able
to get a solid feeling for how the market is shaping up and avoid other vendors'
mistakes, King told eWEEK. "The company has already proven that it can take on
some of the world's biggest, baddest technology players and come out at or near
the top. With that record of success, I expect the company's tablet and
smartphone efforts to be equally interesting to consumers and discomforting to
competitors," he said.
In entering the space, Vizio considered how it could provide the best that's
out there to your typical Wal-Mart shopper, Matthew McRae, the company's CTO,
told the Journal.
The devices will sell at Wal-Mart and Costco stores, with a carrier partner
being announced closer to their debut, according to Bloomberg
. There's a huge
gap in the market for people who can't afford the iPad or whatever else, McRae
told Bloomberg, adding that the devices will be aggressively priced.
Vizio also has plans this week to introduce a lineup of three-dimensional
televisions with price tags starting below $300. McRae added, according to
Bloomberg, that the company's plan is for all of its devices to easily
interact. "We're going to make sure all of this stuff works well together," he
said, according to the report. "You'll see a nearly identical interface on the
phone, tablet, TVs and Blu-ray players, hooked to the same application store."
The Journal reported that the Via Tablet and Via Phone will be able to act
as remote controls for other consumer-electronics devices, including all Vizio
products. They'll also offer access to Vizio's Via Plus Internet service, which
will offer access to applications such as Netflix, the Android Market and Facebook.
Additionally, when CES kicks off Jan. 5, Vizio plans to announce details about
Vizio on Demand, a new service that will enable users to start watching a movie
on one device and continue watching on another.
Pund-IT's King says that Vizio can absolutely shake up the smartphone and
tablet markets, which are both still in a Wild West phase, with opportunities,
riches and gun fights to spare.
"More than the smartphone market, the tablet space is the most intriguing,"
King told eWEEK. "Last year's 18 million units shipped remains a tiny fraction
of the 350-million-plus PCs sold during the same period. I'm not sure we'll see
the 3X+ increase in tablet sales that iSuppli is predicting
, but I expect tablets from
multiple vendors to be big news at CES."