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Vizio to Challenge Apple With Low-Priced Smartphone, Tablet

Vizio to Challenge Apple
Vizio is second to Samsung Electronics in sales of TVs in the U.S. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Vizio Inc., the second-largest U.S. television supplier, will introduce a low-cost smartphone and tablet computer using Google Inc.’s Android software to attract consumers who can’t afford Apple Inc.’s devices.

The smartphone with a 4-inch screen and tablet with an 8-inch display will be unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which begins Jan. 6, Chief Technology Officer Matthew McRae said in an interview last week. Irvine, California-based Vizio will also showcase TVs and Blu-ray players that use Google TV software, he said.

With the new products, closely held Vizio will challenge Apple, maker of the iPhone and iPad, and Research in Motion Ltd., which plans to offer its Playbook tablet this year. Vizio, known for low retail prices for its flat-screen televisions, intends to make its smartphone and tablet “very aggressively priced,” McRae said, declining to provide specific numbers.

“There is a huge gap in the market for people who can’t afford the iPad or whatever else,” McRae said.

The tablet and smartphone will be sold at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp., and a carrier for the devices will be announced closer to their summer debut, McRae said.

Vizio, second to Samsung Electronics Co. in sales of TVs in the U.S., is customizing its Internet applications platform, combining the interface with Google’s Android software on the tablet, smartphone and new TVs, McRae said.

“We’re going to make sure all this stuff works well together,” he said. “You’ll see a nearly identical interface on the phone, tablet, TVs and Blu-ray players, hooked to the same application store.”

Compete With Apple

Manufacturers trying to compete with Apple’s iPad must create experiences that resonate with consumers since the devices themselves are easy to create, said Richard Shim, a San Francisco-based analyst at researcher DisplaySearch.

“We are already starting to see many of the players starting to invest in establishing an ecosystem for their slate products,” Shim said.

The Vizio tablet and smartphone will feature transmitters that allow them to function as remote-control devices for other electronics. Both will have access to a new Vizio “On Demand” movie service, which will let consumers purchase and rent movies, McRae said.

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