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Vizio TV maker the surprise entrant into tablets and phones at CES

For three years Faultline berated Apple for not entering the handset market, listening to handset analysts dismiss Apple’s chances, always citing the

By PETER WHITE

Published: 6 January, 2011

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For three years Faultline berated Apple for not entering the handset market, listening to handset analysts dismiss Apple’s chances, always citing the supply chain and market power of Nokia. Apple went ahead and did it and today no-one in their right mind would go out and actually select a Nokia phone over one of the modern touch oriented devices which came out of the Apple revolution.

So when a relatively small US upstart in the TV world says that it’s entering the handset and tablet market, it’s not a surprise to us that most handset followers are once again dissing its chances, before taking a long hard look.

Vizio first claimed it hit the number one TV spot in 2007 and still claims that it’s the number one LCD HDTV maker in the US, and the last time we saw a reputable analyst such as DisplaySearch agree with that lead, it was the first quarter of 2009, when once again it ousted Samsung purely in the HD LCD category, by inches. But it still has some claim to lead the US TV market ahead of some famous names including Sony and LG. Samsung certainly overtook it once again a year ago, but during the third quarter iSuppli reckons that it went ahead once more with a 19.9% shipment share a full 2% ahead of Samsung's shipments.

So we would expect that as the privately held $2.5 billion revenue business which got big by driving down flat-screen prices, enters the smart phone and tablet market, that it is doing so with a full appreciation that its new VIA Phone and VIA Tablet need to be part of an overall entertainment eco-system – something that Apple has pretty much understood ahead of the pack, all along. It has previewed the devices already and will launch them at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas later this week.

And a company that has inched up behind Samsung and Sony and albeit for a short period, overtaken them (only in the US) in one product category may have enough of the combination of design nous and distribution leverage to do it once again.

The new VIA Plus ecosystem, the company says, will herald in a new generation of Vizio Apps, which work on HDTVs, Blu-ray players, smartphones and tablets. For VIA ecosystem read Android Market plus some of its own apps, and the first of these is the most obvious and necessary, with both the tablet and the smart phone operating as remote controls for its TV sets.

“Both the VIA phone and tablet feature the highest performance coupled with innovative features that tie them into the media consumption experience,” said Matthew McRae, Chief Technology Officer at VIZIO. “And by integrating the VIA Plus user experience also found on our next generation TVs and Blu-ray devices, Vizio is delivering the multi-screen, unified ecosystem others have talked about for years and never delivered.”

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