You've probably never heard of Vizio, but the company is now the No. 1 LCD TV-maker in North America, says a new study from researcher iSuppli. Vizio, based in Irvine, Calif., is the name behind many of those incredibly low-priced TVs you see at Costco, Wal-Mart, and other big stores. Vizio got its start as a consulting firm that helped PC-maker Gateway launch a line of flat-panel TVs about five years ago. Gateway has since pulled out of the TV market, but Vizio is going strong.
How could Vizio become so big, so fast? It's possible because today's electronics-makers don't need their own factories. For-hire manufacturers in Asia will build nearly any electronic you want for a fee, and nearly everybody in the industry uses them. Outsourcing manufacturing allows Vizio to have only about 80 employees - and most of them work in tech support.