Sony wants in on Vizio’s turf

Sony may be setting up an attack on Vizio and other low-cost LCD television brands with a budget line of its own.

Speaking to “market sources,” DigiTimes says Sony will introduce the “B Series” in 32-inch and 40-inch models, priced lower than the brand’s existing S-series. The 32-inch TV could cost the equivalent of $463, or even lower, according to the report.

To bring costs down, Sony will reportedly outsource TV production to Taiwan, where manufacturing is cheaper and more flexible. The electronics giant closed one of its two television plants in Japan in January. If Sony finds success with its B-Series, it’ll pressure other manufacturers to outsource as well, the sources say.

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If the reports are true, this would be a dramatic decision for Sony, which traditionally prides itself on offering higher-end, but higher-priced products. “I think it’s important to point out there is a very big difference between the high-end 1080p sets (from Sony) and the low-end kind of Vizio and Chinese manufacturer semi non-HD sets,” Sony executive vice president Robert Wiesenthal told analysts in May 2008, responding to Vizio storming the HDTV market (of course Vizio makes full 1080p sets, too).

Sony’s attitude appears to be changing across its product line, not just for televisions. In July, Sony’s IT products vice president Mike Abary admitted to Laptop Magazine that the company’s high-priced mentality hurt its computing division, pointing to “a paradigm shift in the marketplace that has rendered Sony products to be seconded [sic]  guessed in terms of its competitiveness by consumers.”

Abary bemoaned what he called a “race to the bottom” in computing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Sony’s TV unit is begrudgingly adapting to the same trend in HDTVs.

Regardless of whether Sony is dying a little on the inside, I’m excited to see whether the B-Series is for real. Vizio makes good televisions, but its only competition right now is from lesser-known brands such as Dynex, Proscan and Viore. When shopping for a new set, it would be nice to see another familiar face at the low end.