Vizio jumps into Android game with Via Phone, Tablet

Vizio, best known as a maker of low-cost, flat-panel TVs, announced ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show that it will release a smartphone and tablet running Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform. The move highlights the increasing convergence between smartphones and home entertainment.

Via Phone The two devices, called the Via Phone and Via Tablet, will be released this summer and sold through Wal-Mart and Costco. Vizio did not announce a carrier partner or provide pricing. The phone will have a 4-inch touchscreen display, 5-megapixel camera, a front-facing camera for video calling and the ability to act as a remote for Vizio TVs. The tablet has an 8-inch screen, three speakers, WiFi, a front-facing camera and also can act as a remote.

Both devices have HDMI ports so they can be connected to TVs and play content on the larger screens. Both also will have access to a video-on-demand service and Vizio's Via Plus Internet service, which offers access to Google's Android Market, Netflix, Facebook and Twitter.

Vizio CTO Matthew McRae told Bloomberg that the smartphone and tablet will be "very aggressively priced." He added: "There is a huge gap in the market for people who can't afford the iPad or whatever else." McRae told the Wall Street Journal that Vizio hired experts from Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and other device makers to build its new devices. 

Vizio competes with Samsung in the TV arena, and is second to Samsung in U.S. TV sales. Samsung said last year was working on a joint software platform for both mobile phones and TVs.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this PC Magazine article

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