How Vizio and Google radically reinvented the TV

Vizio, the successful American TV maker, has created a very interesting solution to the smart TV problem. Instead of building yet another smart TV platform or using Android TV, the company has worked very closely with Google these past two years to integrate Chromecast – renamed today to just Google Cast – right into the TV. Vizio then ships a pretty good Android tablet alongside their TV, with all the Google Cast stuff you already know from Chromecast built right in.

The company’s solution is the Vizio Tablet Remote, which isn’t a remote at all: it’s a six-inch tablet running stock Android Lollipop on an eight-core Snapdragon processor with a very nice 1080p screen, a soft-touch back, dual speakers, and a wireless charging cradle. It lacks any dedicated buttons to control the TV – it only turns into a “remote” when you open Vizio’s new SmartCast app or kick off a streaming session from another app that supports Cast, like Hulu or Netflix.

But you don’t have to cast anything to the TV at all – after all, it’s just an Android tablet. You can go ahead and watch Netflix on the Smart Remote if you want. You can download apps from the Play Store. You can cast Netflix to the TV and use the tablet to check Twitter. You can let a kid play games on the tablet and control the entire TV with the SmartCast app on your iPhone. The tablet is basically another small TV.

This is exactly what a smart TV should be. I have a Chromecast – the current hockey puck model – and it’s probably one of the best technology products I’ve ever owned. It’s so simple and elegant, and it just works. Now that I have it, I can’t imagine ever having gone without it. Instead of shoving yet another ugly box underneath my TV or learning and installing apps on yet another platform, I can just use the damn phone in my pocket. Why would I want it any other way?

Vizio and Google have been smart about this whole thing too. The Google Cast portion of the TV is isolated from everything else, and updates comes straight from Google, so it’s always up to date and in line with any other Google Cast device.

The big upsaide for both Vizio and consumers? They don’t have to worry at all about getting deals with content creators and owners.

But by dropping any desire to put apps on the TV itself, Vizio completely sidesteps the platform war entirely. Every app in the Android and the iOS app stores that supports Google Cast is a P-Series app. And iOS and Android apps are the apps developers care about most, so they’re often the best apps from a given service.

That means when Netflix and Hulu update their Android and iOS apps, they’re also updating the P-Series experience. Vizio doesn’t need to beg HBO and ESPN to support its TVs anymore, because they already support Google Cast – and thus the P-Series. There’s no NFL Sunday Ticket app for the Apple TV, but the iOS and Android apps support Cast, so P-Series owners can pay to stream football.

Brilliant, and the future of smart TVs. These silly anachronistic glorified settop boxes like Android TV and the Apple TV? They are relics, old-world thinking. A TV should be a dumb screen ready to receive input from my phone or tablet, and Vizio built just that.

All they need to do now is ship to Europe.


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