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Summary:

Thought Andoid tablets can’t be cool? Vizio begs to differ: The company just introduced an iPad competitor that doubles as a fancy multitouch remote control for any Vizio TV ever sold, plus millions of other CE devices. Features like these could help Android tablets to succeed.

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With dozens of Android tablets to be unveiled at CES this week, many wonder how these devices can possibly compete with the iPad. Looks like Vizio just found an answer: The company will tie its upcoming Via tablet closely to its best-selling TVs. Not only will the slate have the same user interface as the TV screen, but it will also work as a remote control for any Vizio TV.

We’ve been kind of obsessed with the idea of tablets as second screens here at NewTeeVee, and remote control functionality is a big part of that. A number of companies have already started to explore this space. Comcast recently made its iPad remote control app available to end users, and Apple TVs can be controlled via the iPad as well.

However, no one has made a massive push yet to offer millions of TV buyers easier access to built-in apps and online video services like Netflix. Vizio could do just that with its new tablet. Consumers could finally be able to navigate the Netflix catalog or search for Amazon VOD titles with a device that doesn’t require them to use a painful online keyboard. Plus, Vizio’s remote app will even work with legacy TV sets: The device will come with a built-in IR blaster, so you’ll always be able to change the channels on your TV set, whether it’s hooked up to the ‘Net or not.

That’s huge, and it’s one of those features that you’ll never see from Apple. Steve Jobs hates legacy technologies, and he doesn’t want his devices to interact with anything but Apple products and services. However, most people hate their TV and home entertainment remote controls, and they’d love nothing more than to replace them with something universal. Not everyone wants to pay a few hundred bucks for a Harmony remote, but a tablet that offers web browsing, video conferencing and an easy way to control your TV and Blu-ray player? Now we’re talking.

Of course, there’s no reason other Android tablet manufacturers couldn’t jump onto this bandwagon as well, and we should expect some of them to also embrace TV as a selling point for their tablets. The thing that Vizio has going for its Via tablet is its huge TV market share as well as its retail presence.

The company sold TVs worth $2.5 billion in 2009 and has been the number one TV seller during most of 2010. Offer all these customers an inexpensive tablet that works out of a the box as a TV remote, and you’ll enter a market with a huge potential audience. Sell the tablet alongside your inexpensive TVs in stores like Walmart or Costco, and you’ve got yourself a combo that’s hard to beat.

Check out the video interview with Method Inc. VP of Engagement John Gilles explaining why tablets work great as remote controls.

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  1. Um, no. Vizio custkmers are bargain hunters … I have seen a Vizio TV in action. It’s nice but their menus are not designed by geniuses – what Vizio customer is going to pay for what they see as a programmable remote? $99? And as you point out the ipad xfinity app is free (great app BTW) so why would you buy a second rate tablet from a third rate company unless it was $99 – otherwise, why not just buy an ipad?

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  2. Vinod Gopinath Monday, January 3, 2011

    Janko, I absolutely agree with your analysis on how tablets will probably be the way they discover and collect video. OTT boxes will probably fade out soon. TVs themselves will probably just serve as large screens with all the navigation and discovery happening on personal devices like tablets, PCs and phones. Going forward with WiDi and other related technology these devices will beam videos to larger TV screens. So now your tablet becomes your only device for video discovery and the navigation and the TV becomes the large screen experience when you need it. Coincidently I just blogged on a very similar topic yesterday: http://wp.me/pra1P-15

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