Vizio, based in Irvine, is hoping to do with tablets what its done with TVs -- become a market leader by selling millions of lower-priced units with higher-end features.
But, in typical Vizio fashion, the company is taking an unorthodox approach to just about everything, including the release of the $299.99 Vizio Tablet.
For example, there's no solid release date. Some stores already have the tablet, others have yet to get them.
But the tablets should be available in just about all Sam's Club, Wal-Mart and Costco stores by the end of the week, said Jim Noyd, a Vizio spokesman. Amazon.com is selling the lower-price tablet as well.
The new Vizio Tablet features an 8-inch touchscreen with a 1024 x 768 resolution, Wi-fi only Internet connectivity, a front facing camera (but no rear-facing camera), an HDMI port, a MicroUSB port and 2 gigabytes of memory (expandable up to 32 gigabytes with a MicroSD card). The device runs on a modified version of Google's Android Gingerbread mobile OS, which was designed for smart phones but is still being used on many competing tablets.
Noyd said Vizio is working on adapting Android Honeycomb, Google's OS built specifically for tablets, to the Vizio Tablet. Once that is ready, he said, the company will update tablets in an over-the-air download.
Of course, the Vizio Tablet runs Android apps as well as Vizio's TV apps (which it calls Vizio Internet Apps Plus), which run on Vizio's newer Internet-connect TVs and its tablet in a feature that allows video programming or apps to be shared and moved between TV sets and the handheld.
The Vizio Tablet can also be used as a universal remote controller for Vizio TVs, Blu-ray players and other home electronics, even many of those made by other manufacturers, with a built-in infrared receiver, Noyd said. That addition, not found on many (if any) other tablets makes a lot of sense as Vizio makes TVs, remotes, speakers and just about anything else used for living-room entertainment.
So, does Vizio make as solid of a tablet as it does a TV set? We've yet to get our hands on one, but as soon as we do, we'll post our impressions here on the Technology blog. Stay tuned.
[Correction 10:02 a.m.: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Vizio Tablet should hit all the stores planning on selling it by the end of the month. The Vizio Tablet will arrive in stores by the end of this week.]
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Image: The Vizio Tablet. Credit: Vizio