January 18, 2012 | by Andrew Kameka
Vizio has two Android tablets, a phone, and three different forms of Google TV slated for release this year. Each device format runs a different form of Android, and is likely to always be behind the current software version of Android. For the educated Android user, that’s a terrible way to do business and cause to abandon Vizio products. But in Vizio’s mind – and the presumed view of the company’s target audience, average consumers – it’s not a bad strategy. It might actually be the best strategy.
I recently met with Vizio at CES to get a tour of the new Android-related products that the company has in store. There was the original Vizio tablet, which will reach the end of its software road with an update to Honeycomb, and a newer tablet with similar UI changes and no confirmed date for when it will get Ice Cream Sandwich. Then there’s the Google TV televisions, Blu-ray player, and stream player that all altered the GTV interface. Take one look at the new televisions and its clear that when the next iteration of Google TV is released, Vizio won’t get it as soon as other products.
But that doesn’t seem to phase Vizio. In their mind, it’s more important that someone moving from a Vizio tablet to a Vizio Google TV get a consistent look and feel. These devices aren’t necessarily for the people who hunt down updates obsessively; they are for the people who want stronger entertainment options, don’t want to deal with the difficulties of managing their media, and are more concerned with a consistently-good experience when they want to be amused. That’s what it’s devices attempt to do.
“We wanted to bring all of our Android devices together so we could seamlessly share our content from individual devices and send them to any other Internet-connected device within the network,” a Vizio rep on-site told me.
Vizio is gearing up to practice what might be considered fragmented consistency (oxymoron alert!). While the devices may differ greatly from similar offerings in that category, they are well in-tune with the other Vizio products. The Vizio tablet has a user interface that shares a great deal with the Vizio Google TV’s. Users won’t awkwardly move one way on a mobile device and then struggle to adjust to different conventions on the television. The VIA experience will offer similar apps and connections across devices. Users can stream a song on their tablet while in their bedroom, switch to the TV when moving to the living room, or even sending the audio to their desktop computer. Interconnectivity is a key concept at Vizio, and that seems to garner more importance to the company than what version of Android those connected devices are built.
Is this a good strategy? That’s tough to say. There may come a point at which a vocal minority revolts against Vizio’s approach of not keeping up with what other Google TV, tablet, and phone makers do. However, the majority of its customers may be oblivious to the lack of updates and be satisfied with their future devices. That might be the most sensible course for Vizio to take. Updates will be slower, but the day-to-day experience for most of its customers will be a favorable one. We hope.