Television Maker Vizio Seeks Entry into Competitive Mobile Market

by Matt Klassen on January 5, 2011

It looks like the already crowded mobile market is welcoming several more would-be competitor into its ranks, as flat-screen television manufacturer Vizio and Asian-based computer giant Lenovo both announced their intentions to release their own smartphones and tablet devices at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

With Lenovo already making inroads into the mobile market overseas, the real dark horse at this week’s CES will certainly be Vizio, a company heretofore not even rumoured to be interested in the mobile market.

As a television manufacturer, Vizio will surely be emboldened by the past transition success stories of Sony and Samsung, but will Vizio be able to follow their example and find success in the mobile world, or will it simply be another casualty of an overcrowded market?

The company announced yesterday that it will be launching the Via Phone and the Via Tablet this week at the CES, both of which will feature Google’s popular Android operating system. While neither device strikes me as overly-amazing, if nothing else I would wager that Vizio’s niche market will be affordable alternatives to the pricier incumbent options in both the smartphone and tablet fields.

In addition to these two devices, the TV maker will be unveiling Via Plus, its custom user interface that will feature in Vizio’s entire line-up of devices. Similar to Apple’s unified “ecosystem” on the iPhone and the iPad, users will be certainly be attracted to the fact that once their learn how to use one Vizio device, they’ve learned how to use them all. In a market where unified interface is everything, this feature should bode well as Vizio looks to attract customers in the coming months.

Regarding the specifications, there’s really nothing new. For its part, the Via Phone will sport an industry standard 1Ghz processor, a 4-inch high resolution touchscreen and will feature standard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, an HDMI output to play video’s on a TV, and both front and rear facing cameras. While all this has the makings of a solid device, there’s really nothing here that would blow anyone out of the water, and truth be told, if you don’t make splash in the mobile market you probably won’t be around very long.

The Via Tablet, on the other hand, may be a viable alternative to the iPad, not because it exceeds Apple’s popular tablet in specifications or features, but that if it’s priced right it will provide users with a media consumption experience similar to the iPad, hopefully at a fraction of the cost. For its part, the Via Tablet looks almost identical to its smartphone counterpart, running a 1 GHz processor on an 8-inch high-resolution touchscreen, with the same Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and HDMI output, with the added bonus of three speakers.

With the fact being that neither device brings anything new to the table, however, both the Via Phone and the Via Tablet will live or die by their designated price points.

While Vizio has yet to comment on the price of either device—hopefully something we’ll hear about in the next few days at the CES—it would seem that Vizio, a brand that is almost completely unknown in the mobile market, would surely need to employ extremely competitive pricing in an effort to attract consumers, develop its brand, and, of course, sell product. If it sets the price to high, however, Vizio could quickly find itself on the outside looking in, yet another entry in a long-list of mobile flops.

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