Looks like Vizio is pulling itself out of some hot water. The popular television manufacturer (among other products) has been fined $2.2 million, payable to the FTC and the State of New Jersey, for some pretty serious privacy violations. Starting in 2014, Vizio has sold Internet-connected TVs that track what the customers watch and send that data back to its servers.
AMD is a pretty big name in the technology world. The semiconductor manufacturer, which rarely pursues legal action against others (at least publicly), has filed a patent infringement complaint with the U.S ITC against several other entities. It asserts that the offensive uses of those technologies negatively impacts AMD and its licensees.
A little while after LG's announcement that it would add Google Home compatibility to its Music Flow line, Vizio steps up and makes a similar announcement for its SmartCast series of connected speakers, displays, and the like. This will add the strength of voice control to Chromecast-ready devices like the Crave 360 and Pro speakers.
When you hear the name Vizio, you usually would think of TVs. Perhaps some of you may even know of its soundbar product line. Whatever your knowledge of the likely-to-be LeEco-owned Vizio may be, we need to discuss this speaker. The Crave 360 is an odd thing that looks like an Amazon Echo, has Google Cast built in, and tries to be a viable Sonos alternative.
But does it succeed in its attempt at the latter? Not quite. However, it is still a nice-sounding, multi-room speaker that has a little bit extra that sets it apart from its run-of-the-mill cousins.
LeEco can't seem to catch a break. Last month, its CEO Jia Yueting sent out a memo days after the company's US launch claiming it was over-extended and suffering from "big company disease," which seemed a clear euphemism for incoming job cuts. A month later, and things aren't any better.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the publicly-traded arm of LeEco, known as Leshi, had seen its stock tank earlier this week. Reports from Chinese media claim that an 8% drop on Tuesday triggered margin calls by Jia's lenders, meaning he will either be forced to sell some of his Leshi company stock or provide his margin accounts fresh funds.
At a press conference in Los Angeles this morning, LeEco announced that it was acquiring the entirety of Vizio's hardware and software businesses for $2 billion. The acquisition, or at least an investment, had been rumored recently, but today it's official. Vizio will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of LeEco, meaning we can expect the Vizio brand to live on in the future, especially here in the US where Vizio is based.
Vizio's current executive management will remain in place at the company, which will continue to operate via its headquarters in Irvine, CA. Vizio's data business, Inscape, will be spun off as part of the acquisition, to become a separately, private-owned firm, run by Vizio's founder and CEO William Wong (LeEco will own a 49% stake in this business, with Wong owning 51%).
If you've been waiting to "smart" up your home theater's audio, Vizio may have just given you incentive to pull the trigger on a purchase with its new SmartCast sound bar collection, launched today. They start at just a paltry $180 for the basic 38" three-driver sound bar and go all the way up to $500 for fully-equipped 5.1 systems. What makes them smart? Well, they're Google Cast enabled right out of the box, meaning you can cast audio to your Vizio SmartCast speakers just like a Chromecast, and that's pretty damn cool.
At launch, Vizio has nine configurations available, so there's probably a setup that fits in a price:performance:practicality bracket for you.
Vizio's P-Series 4K TVs* are about to get infinitely more Google-y. The new second generation models (P-Series Ultra HD HDR Home Theater Display is the full name, but we'll gloss over that) come with Google Cast built-in, meaning a Chromecast or Cast-enabled set-top box isn't needed in order to cast over content.
There are four of them, all at different sizes and prices; 50-inch, 55-inch, 65-inch and 75-inch, ranging from $1,000 to $3,800. Note that Google Cast is different from Android TV - these TVs have no apps built-in, with all interaction being through Cast, same as when a Chromecast is plugged into a TV.
Google had a hit on its hands from the moment it released the original $35 Chromecast a few years ago, but not everyone who has a TV knows about all the cool things a Chromecast can do or that they can get one so cheaply. Apparently, Google wants to make it easier for people to start casting by simply building cast support into TVs, starting with Vizio.
Vizio's pulled the curtains off two new Portable Smart Audio speakers that are powered by Android 4.4. What makes them special are the touchscreens embedded into the front of each device. Instead of having to pair them with a phone using Bluetooth, users will be free to stream music directly from the likes of Spotify and Pandora or enjoy video from Netflix or YouTube. Think of each version as a bulky tablet that doesn't need to rest in your lap, one with speakers that you won't leave you reaching for earbuds.
The Portable Smart Audio line doesn't have the most memorable name, but consumers will have two options to pick from once these land on store shelves.