Published: Nov. 22, 2011 Updated: 3:16
Vizio CEO William Wang: 'You can always go cheaper'
By IAN HAMILTON / THE ORANGE COUNTY
Less than half is the price point Vizio seems to target when a
competitor has a hot but expensive piece of technology.
It's how Vizio got to nearly $3 billion in revenue in 2010 and
became a market leader in LCD televisions. The company, with its
headquarters in Irvine, outsources everything but design, marketing
and customer service. Vizio employs around 400 people, more than
half at a call center in South Dakota, and the man behind the Vizio
vision is CEO and founder William Wang, recently selected as
Chapman University's Entrepreneur of the Year.
Article Tab: image1-Vizio CEO William Wang: 'You can always go
"I never looked at myself as an entrepreneur. I never grew up
wanting to be a businessman. I said, 'I'm going to do this because
I can make peoples' lives better'…I had a dream," Wang told a crowd
of students and local professionals at the event last week where he
was honored. "There's a liability with that dream…you have to know
how to work with people. You have to know how to share. You have to
know how to manage your time and your peoples' time. You have to
manage money. You've got to make money for everybody else. It's not
just you…that's a responsibility that a dreamer doesn't have."
I met Wang for the first time after his talk and asked him a few
questions about Vizio's strategy, which includes a just-launched
tablet at less than $200 and a soon-to-be-launched smartphone.
"You can always go cheaper. That's technology," Wang told me when I
asked how Vizio could enter the cell phone market when smartphones
are already so inexpensive. The two-year-old iPhone is free under
contract and low-powered Android phones are around $150 without a
When I asked him what phone he uses, Wang pulled out a white iPhone
4S from one coat pocket and a new Blackberry from the other. He
complained about the Blackberry and praised the iPhone (though he
doesn't care for Siri or any voice recognition system he's used).
The Blackberry has a keyboard, a small directional pad as well as a
touchscreen. He demonstrates something that doesn't make much sense
on the Blackberry – drag your finger down the touchscreen and your
finger hits the top of the pad, which moves things on screen in the
opposite direction as the touch-screen.
In 2011, Vizio started offering 3D technology that swapped out
expensive battery-powered glasses for cheaper ones and introduced a
tablet priced under $200 when Apple's iPad begins at $500. Next,
the company will introduce a smartphone with a 4-inch screen that
will run Android, like most phones today, and it'll also come with
the same Vizio treatment as on its first tablet and planned for its
TVs. It's called Via (Vizio Internet Apps) Plus, and Vizio aims to
offer a simple interface for general consumers across all three
devices. You could easily control your television with your cell
phone or your tablet.
Vizio started by using Google's Android. In Android, Google
provides free software that can be used and modified by any variety
of manufacturers in the way Microsoft's Windows used to for PCs. If
a company doesn't use Google's App Market to sell apps it doesn't
even need to use the word "Android" to use the software. Those
companies, like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, release app stores of
their own instead.
Many companies do ship with Google's App Market, including Vizio
and its $200 tablet.
HTC and Samsung, among others, are battling Apple with similar
hardware functionality, size and price points while running various
versions of Android from 2.3, 3.0, 3.1, to, possibly soon, 4.0.
These devices have been failing to outshine the iPad.
One problem is that the iPad is the whole package at $500 – the
best software, the best hardware and comes at the best price. To
pick the right size for the iPad screen – 9.7 inches – Apple had 20
models made of different rectangular sizes and aspect ratios,
according to the biography on Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Jobs
and his design guru Jonathan Ive put the models on a design studio
and would lift the velvet cloth hiding them to play with the
tablets. "That's how we nailed what the screen size was," Ive
Vizio's tablet is in a different category at under $200.
Victor Brilon, senior director of product management, mobility at
Vizio, said he looked at about 20 different flat panel sizes going
up to 12 inches and narrowed it down to a range they liked between
7 and 10 inches. Then they had cardboard-size cutouts made that
were passed out to the team and they pretended like they were real
tablets. Vizio settled on 8 inches.
"We definitely made the right decision," Brilon said.
The iPad makes major sacrifices compared to laptops. At the same
time, it also comes at less than half the price and does things
laptops cannot. iPad gets 10 or so hours of battery life, is far
easier to use and is so much more portable than a laptop.
The Vizio tablet makes major sacrifices compared to the iPad. At
the same time, it also comes at less than half the price and does
things iPad cannot. The Vizio tablet has GPS and universal remote
control functionality and neither of those are found in the $500
Heading into 2012, is the market bigger for laptops, iPad or these
new small tablets like the Amazon Tablet and the Kindle Fire? Time
I asked Wang to reveal what we'd see from Vizio at the January
Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas but he declined.
Cyber Monday Deals 2011 VIZIO 8-Inch Tablet with WiFi – VTAB1008
By Editor ⋅ November 26, 2011