At the beginning of October, Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) announced the release of Portal, which makes video calling easier, almost like a hangout. This Facebook Portal takes video calling experience to a whole new level. It is basically a combination of smart camera, smart speaker and a display with additional features to make video calling less of a hassle. Having experienced the tedious experience of holding the phone in the user’s hand or having to lean down over the system, this definitely comes as a relief to most people.
Portal has been physically described as a 10.1-inch 1200px x 800px display, a built-in 10-watt smart speaker, and a 12MP smart camera. The regular Portal blends in easily in couched rooms, say the kitchen or above a TV. The Portal+ is, reportedly, the larger version has a 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 rotating display and additional bells and whistles include 20-watt speakers along with a 12 MP camera. This upgraded device is best suited for halls or say, living room, and can notably stand out wherever set up.
The Facebook Portal is now been up for sale, and the shipping process is said to begin shortly. But the device already faces a market threat due to the levelling growth of smart speaker devices as well as strong domination of Amazon Echo. According to CIRP survey, there were 53 million smart speakers in US homes at the end of September. Leading a conclusion to be built that, Echo devices still dominate with 70% market share. Google Home has 25% and Apple’s HomePod is in 5% of smart speaker households.
Not ignoring the vast demand for Amazon Echo devices in most households, the Facebook Portal faces a tremendous market threat. While the Portal may have astounding features dealing solely with the purpose of making video calling easier, it also houses features wherein the Portal will scroll through Facebook photos. Additionally, one may also watch shows from Facebook Watch. If not this, there are other verified apps for idle browsing called Pandora, Spotify or the news service known as Newsy.
Although, being a hub to such phenomenal features, Portal has gained a large mistrust amongst the Facebook users. Largely because of the past reports of scandals and breaching of the user’s privacy, the release of the Portal at the brink of a threat seems like a way to make up for the past to seem, while others may see it as another take at breaching one’s privacy. Admittedly, the timing for such a release hasn’t been great for such a social media giant, largely because the reaction has been overwhelmingly sceptical.
Most users seem to face a large distrust because of the dark shadow that Cambridge Analytica or #deletefacebook continues to cast. The other various reports of cover-ups and ignored experiences also continue to add to the mistrust the public has on the social giant. Facebook, certainly not surprised by the sentiment, took the pains to make a point of the privacy controls built into its Portal device.
“Facebook doesn’t listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls. Your Portal conversations stay between you and the people you’re calling. In addition, video calls on Portal are encrypted, so your calls are always secure. For added security, Smart Camera and Smart Sound use AI technology that runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers. Portal’s camera doesn’t use facial recognition and doesn’t identify who you are,” Facebook clarifies addressing the Privacy concerns.
But despite this, Facebook claims to understand any hesitance to embrace the product. Although Facebook owns a virtual reality company – Oculus Rift, the Portal is the first such device to be released under Facebook’s brand. Hence, considering the market threat posed by the Amazon Echo, as well as the mistrust amongst the users, Facebook might have chosen the wrong time to release and promote their smart and hands-free video calling device, Portal.