TV Maker Vizio Launches Phones, Tablets; Apple to Make TV?

By Doug Mohney January 03, 2011

There's some sweet symmetry today between TV manufacturer Vizio announcing it is launching Android smartphones and tablets, while one analyst is predicting Apple will release its own TV set.

Vizio, best known for its high-end LCD TVs loaded with electronics, is going to introduce a low-cost smartphone with a four-inch screen and a tablet with an 8-inch screen at CES, reports Bloomberg. The products will be "very aggressively priced," stated Vizio's CTO, and will be sold at Walmart and Costco when they roll out for shipping this summer. Users will get the same user interface across all devices, be it TV, phone or tablet (Hmm, this sounds strangely familar, doesn't it?).

Vizio offered a tease about its tablet with a commercial shown during the Rose Bowl. The new devices -- phone and tablet -- will have HDMI ports to hook up to TV sets, along with the software/hardware necessary for using them as remote controls for other consumer electronic devices including (yes) all of Vizio's products. Tablet specs include a pair of video cameras for video conferencing and WiFi. Wireless carrier(s) for the Vizio products will be announced closer to the summer device rollout.

A final kicker is that the companion Vizio On Demand video streaming service will enable users to start watching a movie or TV show on one device and finish up watching it on another. 

Meanwhile, a senior analyst at Piper Jaffray, is predicting Apple will enter the TV set market by the end of 2012, says CNET. Gene Munster believes that Apple will go full-bore into the living room to offer an all-in-one Apple TV, including the Apple TV service/software, MobileMe access, iTunes store, and network connectivity.

While Apple fanboys catch their breath (and seriously, if Apple is going this route, it would probably be one of the most beautiful pieces of Man Cave gear in creation), a TV makes sense for a bunch of reasons. Apple already has iTunes, so it has both the content and electronic storefront available. It has a fanatically loyal customer base that will pay a price premium.

And to tie everything together, Apple can run the same user interface across its smartphone, tablet and TV set. Pretty sweet, eh?

I am having a little déjà vu all over again. however. HP tried to sell TV sets once upon a time, and Dell is still selling TVs, so seeing Vizio and Apple crossing over into new territory isn't a big surprise.

Vizio approaches the market from a fast-and-lean perspective, one that has served them well in capturing a large chunk of market share in the U.S. on price/performance and I suspect there's beaucoup similarity in the board designs between smartphone, tablet and TV. Apple will no doubt make a beautiful piece of hardware that most will love -- and then leave off some vital feature or function in order to squeeze an extra $40 to $100 for extra add-ons.

Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TechZone360 and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

Contributing Editor

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