Facebook is working on an Echo Show competitor according to Cheddar. The online news network reports:
Like Amazon’s screen-equipped Echo Show, Facebook’s Portal is designed to work indoors and be controlled through voice commands. According to people familiar with Facebook’s plans, Portal will be equipped with a wide-angle lens that is capable of recognizing individual faces and associating them with their Facebook accounts.
Portal will reportedly retail for $499, which is more than double the standard retail price of the Echo Show. Facebook also plans to offer streaming services like Spotify and Netflix on its smart home device.
Portal Will Play to Facebook’s Strengths
In order to compete in the increasingly crowded smart speaker market, Facebook plans to position Portal as a social connectivity tool. It will allow users to video chat with friends and family and provide other social features, although no details have been given yet. Facebook has long been in the forefront of using artificial intelligence to recognize and discern individual faces. Like Google and Amazon have played to their strengths with their own virtual assistants, Facebook is leveraging its social media clout and facial recognition capabilities to distinguish Portal from the competition.
Keeping Consumers in Facebook’s Social Network
But like Facebook’s competitors, the company isn’t looking to profit from the sales of the Portal device itself. Cheddar also reports:
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has told employees that he doesn’t care if the device generates profit but rather wants it to change user behavior and encourage phone-like usage among owners.
Facebook knows it’s not about the device. It’s about keeping users in Facebook’s social network. However, the question remains whether consumers will want such a device. According to a recent study from The Verge and Reticle Research, nearly 30% of consumers greatly or somewhat distrust Facebook. Amazon and Google ranked highest in the study, only second and third to the consumer’s own bank.
This complicates the company’s foray into smart speakers, as trust is a main concern for consumers overall in this space. However, consumers love convenience and Facebook is at the center of many people’s day-to-day lives. The Facebook Portal will reportedly ship sometime in the second half of 2018. We’ll have to wait until then to see if consumers will hit the “Like” button.