Ever since the BlackBerry started to give people access to their email anywhere, and probably long before that, we’ve been imagining a day when the only computing device we need will be small enough to fit in our pockets. That day may be here, at least if Motorola has anything to say about it. Their new ATRIX smartphone, a dual-core speed demon boasting 1 GB of RAM, is the centre of an entire portable ecosystem that includes a laptop-like screen and keyboard combo and a home-theatre dock which turns the ATRIX into an HD media hub. It’s essentially just another Android-powered smartphone, but the ATRIX’s power and peripherals (and some very specialized custom software) make this Android device the first of its kind to free its user from ever again needing to power up a regular computer.
Well you can go ahead and colour me surprised! Here’s a company that has barely made an impression on the Canadian market with its line-up of value-priced HDTVs – Vizio – suddenly announcing that they’re getting into two brand new product categories: tablets and smartphones.
We’re a little shy on the details right now… hopefully we’ll learn more once we get down to Las Vegas and see these devices in-person, but here’s what we can share from the press release:
“Both the VIA phone and tablet feature the highest performance coupled with innovative features that tie them into the media consumption experience,” said Matthew McRae, Chief Technology Officer at VIZIO. “And 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.”
The VIZIO VIA Phone features a 1 GHz processor, 4″ high-resolution capacitive touch screen, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, GPS, a MicroSD card slot for memory expansion and HDMI output with HD video playback. It also features a front-facing camera for video chats and a 5 megapixel rear camera for photos and HD video capture.
The VIZIO VIA Tablet also features a 1 GHz processor, with an 8″ high-resolution capacitive touch screen, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, GPS, a MicroSD card slot for additional memory expansion, HDMI output with HD video playback, and a front-facing camera for video chats. It also boasts a unique three-speaker design for stereo audio in both portrait and landscape modes.
Both devices include a built-in IR blaster with universal remote control app for quick access to the entire home theater or nearly any other CE device in the home. Both run on the Android Platform, which will also allow users to access thousands of apps through Android Market.
“As part of the VIA Plus ecosystem, the VIA phone and tablet are natural extensions of the HD entertainment experience that historically has centered around the TV,” added Mr. McRae. “Whether consumers are looking to enjoy content on the big screen, on their tablet or on a mobile phone, VIA Plus delivers on the promise of Entertainment Freedom for All by creating a rich and consistent user experience across all devices that’s accessible to everyone, from the power user to the casual browser.”
In case you’re wondering what all the references to “VIA” are all about, that’s the name Vizio has given to their internet-enabled suite of on-screen TV apps – which you can interact with “via” the included QWERTY remote-control.
This represents a very important development in the HDTV market insofar as I believe it makes Vizio the first manufacturer to extend their internet-based TV experience onto two other companion devices, all running the same platform and all under the same brand. Samsung has come close with their 9000-series HDTV, but their version of this integration uses a “smart remote”, not the kind of the device caliber as these new units from Vizio. Don’t forget, Vizio recently announced that they will be first to market with a 3D system that uses conventional movie-theatre glasses instead of the more expensive and bulkier active-shutter units that nearly ever other maker is shipping.
Not bad for a company few of us had ever heard of two years ago.