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Low-cost TV maker tips Android tablet and phone

Jan 3, 2011 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

TV manufacturer Vizio announced an eight-inch, Android-based “Via” tablet and four-inch Via Phone. Meanwhile Verizon Wireless will introduce 4G-powered Android smartphones made by Samsung, Motorola, HTC, and LG Electronics — plus at least one tablet — and Asus is expected to unveil three Android tablets, including two convertible devices, say industry reports.

Vizio, which bills itself as "America's #1 LCD HDTV company," announced an Android-based smartphone and tablet, called the Via Phone and Via Tablet, respectively. The devices are said to offer Android Market access, as well as feed into a Via Plus ecosystem that share common Vizio Internet Apps. Members of the Via Plus ecosystem will include Vizio HDTVs, Blu-ray players, smartphones, and tablets, says the company.

Via Tablet (left) and Via Phone (right)

Both the Via Tablet and Via Phone are equipped with an unnamed 1GHz processor, and offer 802.11n, Bluetooth, GPS, and a MicroSD card slot for memory expansion, says Vizio. They also provide HDMI output for HD video playback, as well as a front-facing video cam, says the company.

The slab-style Via Phone is said to provide a four-inch "high-resolution" capacitive touchscreen, as well as a five-megapixel rear-facing camera. The eight-inch, capacitive Via Tablet lacks the phone's second camera, but provides a "unique three-speaker design for stereo audio in both portrait and landscape modes, says Vizio.

Both devices include a built-in IR blaster with a "universal remote control app for quick access to the entire home theater or nearly any other CE device in the home," says the company.

Vizio will be demonstrating the new Android devices in their private CES showcase at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas from Jan. 6 to 9, 2011.

According to a story in our sister publication eWEEK that was posted before today's formal announcement, Vizio has fewer than 500 employees, yet ships more LCD TVs worldwide than its competitors. The Android products were said to have been developed with a team of fewer than 10 people and specialists it hired from Nokia.

The devices will sell at Wal-Mart and Costco stores, with a carrier partner being announced closer to their debut, says the story. No cellular capability was mentioned in the press release, but presumably this will emerge later.

eWEEK quotes Pund-IT analyst Charles King as commenting in regards to Vizio, "The company has already proven that it can take on some of the world's biggest, baddest technology players and come out at or near the top. With that record of success, I expect the company's tablet and smartphone efforts to be equally interesting to consumers and discomforting to competitors."

The Via Tablet and Via Phone are said to be able to act as remote controls for other consumer-electronics devices, including all Vizio products. Vizio's Via Plus Internet service offers access to applications such as Netflix, the Android Market, and Facebook, says the story. 

Vizio also has plans this week to introduce a lineup of 3D televisions with price tags starting below $300, says eWEEK. Additionally, when CES kicks off Jan. 5, Vizio plans to announce details about Vizio on Demand, a new service that will enable users to start watching a movie on one device and continue watching on another.

Stated Matthew McRae, chief technology officer at Vizio. "By integrating the Via Plus user experience also found on our next generation TVs and Blu-ray devices, Vizio is delivering the multi-screen, unified ecosystem others have talked about for years and never delivered."

More details leaked on Verizon LTE Android roll-out

For weeks now, it has been widely anticipated that Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg will use his CES keynote address on Jan. 6 to announce up to a half-dozen devices that support its new 4G LTE network. Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, the carrier will use the event to unveil four 4G smartphones and at least one tablet computer based on Android.

The smartphones, some of which have to been tipped in recent weeks, include models from Samsung, Motorola, HTC (most likely the recently tipped HTC Thunderbolt), and LG Electronics, says the Journal.

The tablet is likely to be the Motorola tablet the phone maker has teased about in a promo video, says a story in eWEEK. While CES attendees may be able to sample Verizon 4G prototype devices on the show floor, the gadgets won't reach consumers hands until later in 2011, says the story.

Asus Android tablets gain new confirmations

Asus, also known as Asustek Computer, is expected to introduce at least one Android-based tablet with a detachable keyboard and one with a sliding keyboard, says eWEEK, citing Taiwan's Central News Agency. The devices are said to feature 10-inch displays and run Android 2.4 ("Honeycomb"), which is expected to have features that support the higher resolutions required for tablets.

An Android-based Asus EeePad device
Source: Asus, via Slashgear

The story appears to confirm a Slashgear report posted on Dec. 30, citing a video it believes Asus had posted but then pulled. This followed some teaser photos released by Asus, showing at least one Android-based device (see photo above).

The video was said to have indicated that Asus has four tablets in the works, including a 12-inch, Windows 7-based Eee Pad 121 tablet and three Android models. The latter are said to include the seven-inch EeePad EP71, as well as two convertible models that can double as netbooks. The EP101 is said to have a detachable, dockable keyboard, while the EP102 has a slide-out keyboard.

Asus officials will be speaking at a press conference at 2PM on Jan. 4 at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas.

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