Trender Research™

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Vizio Continues to Exceed Expectations with Unlikely Success Story

It’s a familiar story. American companies outsourcing to companies in Asia that can produce quality products at lower cost. And not just outsourcing manufacturing and the jobs that go with it, but outsourcing innovation and entire product categories to foreign vendors.

So the Vizio story is quite amazing. The young Irvine, CA company, which only began ramping its operations five years ago, took over the #2 HDTV supplier spot in the 4th quarter of 2008 (source: iSuppli). This against fierce competition from much larger foes with strong brand recognition such as Samsung (#1), Sony, Panasonic, LG, and Philips.

Vizio did it with a great strategy— keep an eye out for the features that customers really want, never sacrifice on quality or performance, and provide a great value. Vizio has executed on this strategy flawlessly and it’s the reason Vizio won our 2009 Trender Award for best HDTV brand.

And I am happy about it. When I my bought my first Vizio 42” LCD flat panel at a Sam’s Club (a Club special at $899) about 2 years ago, I was a little sheepish to tell my friends the name of the brand on my wall. Now, despite being named Wall-Mart’s Supplier of Year in 2008, Vizio has built up respectability as a brand with good products and good prices. No shame in that.

I had a chance to meet with Vizio representatives at the Consumer Electronics Show. I was impressed not only by the breadth of their product line, but also at the glimpse at Vizio’s upcoming product line up. Vizio has a range of LCD HDTVs from 19” to 55” jumbo sets.

Vizio announced the flagship XVT Series of HDTVs has a new admiral— the envy-inspiring 55” 240Hz LED LCD HDTV featuring 1,000,000:1 (you heard that right— 1 million) Mega Dynamic Contrast. It offers exceptional contrast, backlighting and Vizio’s Smooth Motion II technology.

For those looking for a “picture on the wall effect” Vizio offers the new Ultra Slim 2.5” deep 32” and 37” models.

Like other HDTV manufacturers, Vizio is hopping on the green bandwagon with mercury-free models and the new EchoHD LCD line of energy-efficient models that exceed Energy Star 3.0 requirement. Besides not polluting the environment, Vizio claims they use less energy than a 60 watt bulb. The EchoHD models are a good value too, with 32-inchers retailing at $449.99 (plus a lower electric bill).

Other innovations Vizio recently introduce include a range of accessories for folks looking for the full home theater experience. They have their new Blu-ray player ($199) but I was most impressed with the sleek design and power of Vizio’s HD Sound Bar and Wireless Subwoofer (below). It fits in very discreetly with a wall-mounted HDTVs and includes SRS TruSurround technology for immersive sound and smoothing of volume peaks (such as during commercials). The Wireless Subwoofer uses 2.4 GHz spectrum for optimal positioning on your wall without unsightly cords dangling about.

Vizio Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer

Finally, and something we will be talking more about, is Vizio’s upcoming connected TV strategy. Like other HDTV providers, Vizio plans to include 802.11n WiFi connections in HDTVs later this year to provide a range of Internet content including games from Accedo Broadband, videos from Amazon, Blockbuster, and Netflix, and music from Pandora and Rhapsody. This line of HDTVs will also have snippets of Internet content including news, sports, stock quotes, and weather courtesy of imbedded Yahoo Widget Engine technology. Along with Adobe’s Flash Lite software, the new TV Widgets platform will allow developers to build a whole new set of Internet connected applications for Vizio’s future product line. It is important to note that, while Vizio’s new HDTVs will have Internet connectivity, they will not have the open “anywhere I want to go” capability of a PC browser. This is partly due to digital rights issues and the limitations of using upgraded HDTVs to do what computers are built for. In future posts, we will be digging deeper on the pros and cons of this connected strategy.

All-in-all, Vizio continues to show it is adept at both innovation and providing a good value for the money. HDTVs are the biggest electronics purchase most consumers will make, so having their reliable, feature-rich, and cost-effective line up as an option is good for consumers-- and good for Vizio at it marches along with its unlikely success story.

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