VIZIO reboots the PC: a quiet American success story takes on sleeping giants
By Nilay Patel
June 15, 2012
The keyboard had to change.
It was a month after Vizio had revealed its new line of PCs at CES 2012, where the company had received near-universal praise for its slim designs, clean Windows builds, and promises of low prices. But the keyboard was contentious: it looked striking but didn’t seem all that comfortable to use. After using the CES prototypes for weeks, Vizio’s team decided to change it up — not only the design of the keycaps, but the feel of the inner mechanism as well. “Are you sure?” asked the company’s manufacturing partner, which had already built the tooling and was gearing up for production. “You know what this means.”
They were sure. Oh, and while they were at it, they decided to make the trackpads bigger. Just to make things a little more complicated.
Vizio is one of the best-kept secrets in consumer technology. The tiny Southern California company consistently sells the most HDTVs in America, but it's a sure bet that you know virtually nothing about it. Hell, most people don't even know Vizio is an American company, even though all but three of its 417 employees work in the US. That's sort of what happens when you run virtually no advertising outside of sponsoring a few major events like the Rose Bowl, hold no press conferences outside of CES, and build the foundation of your empire by selling low-cost TVs at Walmart. Yet Vizio's customers keep coming back, and bringing others: a combination of low prices, increasing quality, and solid customer support is pretty hard to resist.
But after conquering the TV market, launching a line of well-regarded soundbars , and dipping a curious toe into the Android tablet waters, Vizio's decided to come out of the shadows and go after something bigger: the PC industry. The company just announced a complete line of laptops and all-in-one desktops that feature attractive designs, high-end components, and totally clean builds of Windows, with prices between $899 and $1,299. It's a risky bet for many reasons — the PC is full of mature, dominant players like HP and Dell, and the entire PC ecosystem is at a major inflection point with Windows 8 and Windows RT — but Vizio is confident it's making the right move.
After all, it entered the mature TV market in much the same way almost exactly a decade ago.
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