Vizio rethinks PC strategy in weak market

New PCs from Vizio now hard to find

Vizio's two-year run in the PC market has hit a wall, and its laptops, desktops and tablets are quickly disappearing as the company re-evaluates its product mix.

"Given the continued weak sales in the PC category as a whole, Vizio is revisiting its product assortment strategy. Additional updates will be available at a later date," said Jim Noyd, a Vizio spokesman, in an email.

All Vizio laptops, desktops and tablets have run out of stock on the company's website, and new PCs shown at CES in January have not yet shipped. The last product standing was Vizio's Tablet, which had an 11.6-inch screen, but that ran out of stock last month.

After products go out of stock, "pages are kept active for customer support purposes," Noyd said.

Refurbished Vizio laptop models from 2012 are being sold by online stores like Best Buy. Major retail stores are not carrying new models either online or in stores, but just a few units of new models are available from small retailers through Amazon's online marketplace.

Vizio, largely known for its TVs, entered the PC market in 2012, just when demand for laptops and desktops started falling. At the time, Vizio said it wanted to deliver "high-quality and beautifully designed" consumer PCs that were "affordable."

It's hard to predict Vizio's fate, but consumer PC makers have struggled over the last two years with the market contracting, said Bob O'Donnell, principal analyst at Technalysis Research.

Vizio's "timing was bad as they jumped in as a consumer brand just as a consumer market began to tank," O'Donnell said.

If Vizio decides to leave the PC business in the process of re-evaluation, it could again be bad timing as the consumer market is showing signs of picking up, O'Donnell said.

Vizio never did well in the PC business, and was relying on wholesale partners like Costco to sell laptops. The thin PC designs, particularly laptops, received good reviews, though the prices were high.

Vizio's reputation for making low-cost TVs clashed with the premium-price laptop strategy, O'Donnell said. If Vizio wants to remain in the PC market, it has to revisit its PC pricing and branding strategy.

If Vizio decides to continue making PCs, it should bring its TV expertise with 4K screens and other features, O'Donnell said.

But Vizio will still need to face market leaders Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, which are gaining PC market share through strong business laptop shipments.

"I still think that there are challenges for the more consumer-focused [companies]," O'Donnell said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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