Vizio, the maker of low-cost LCD TVs, is reportedly planning to launch an inexpensive Android smartphone and tablet computer, challenging Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM).

Privately-held Vizio will be expanding its portfolio of electronic devices to mobile phones, revealing the Via phone and the tablet at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which begins on Thursday.

Via phone will sport a 4-inch screen, while the Via tablet will have an 8-inch display and WiFi wireless connectivity, reports say. The devices are expected to hit the market this summer.

"With the explosion of 3D TV, we currently have many exciting new developments to reveal at the Consumer Electronics Show," says Vizio.

Vizio, known for its low-cost TVs and Blu-ray players, is vying with Samsung Electronics Co. for leadership in the U.S. television market.

The company also intends to launch 3D HDTVs below $300, and a "Vizio on Demand" video service at the CES.

Vizio plans to make its smartphone and tablet "very aggressively priced," a Bloomberg report said, quoting Vizio's Chief Technology Officer Matthew McRae. "There is a huge gap in the market for people who can't afford the iPad or whatever else."

The new products from the Irvine, California-based Vizio will challenge Apple's iPhone and iPad, and RIMM, which intends to offer its Playbook tablet this year.

The Via devices will be sold at Wal-Mart and Costco Wholesale stores, and a carrier for the devices will be announced closer to launch.

Market research firm iSuppli expects tablet sales to more than triple to 61 million this year from 18 million units in 2010. Based on a recent study, IMS Research forecasts that Android will grow its share of the market from a projected 15.2 percent in 2011 to 28.4 percent in 2015.

According to IMS Research, over 15 suppliers will be selling Android-based tablets by mid 2011, including Acer, Cisco, Dell, Motorola, OpenPeak, Samsung, Viewsonic, and many more. Over 2.1 billion connected devices will ship globally in 2011, including a forecast of 226 million fixed entertainment devices such as TV sets and game consoles, and over 1.6 billion portable devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Though many companies have revealed their intent to launch such devices, Vizio's entry could "accelerate price cutting that would squeeze profit margins," a report from the Wall Street Journal said.

Vizio's plans are "going to cause some Excedrin popping," the Wall Street Journal report said, quoting Richard Doherty, an analyst for technology consulting firm Envisioneering Group. "They're going to be a real disrupter."

Costco Wholesale and Wal-Mart Stores are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Apple and Costco Wholesale are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Wal-Mart Stores is a Motley Fool Global Gains pick. The Fool has created a bull call spread position on Cisco Systems. The Fool owns shares of Apple, Costco Wholesale, and Wal-Mart Stores. Motley Fool Alpha owns shares of Cisco Systems. 

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