In over one and a half decade since its launch, Facebook has established itself as one of the tech giants of the world. The social media platform has become a household name throughout the globe. It currently boasts a user base of over 2 billion people. For the past few years, the company has been diversifying its product base. The company entered the hardware space with the acquirement of VR company Oculus. It is even launching its own cryptocurrency next year.
Last year, the company made its jump into the hardware space with the launch of the first-generation Portal. Portal is Facebook’s own line of smart displays. Now the company has announced three new devices.
Facebook announced the second-generation Portal, a new Portal Mini and the all new Portal TV today. The newest device in the Portal series, Portal TV is basically a streaming device that doubles as a video calling service.
Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president of consumer hardware, spoke of the newly launched devices. In an interview with Forbes, Bosworth claimed that the company isn’t actually looking at the business model. He says that the company is more focused in providing an experience to its users.
“We’re not really focused on the business model right now, admittedly. It’s a new category. I think the most important thing for us right now is getting experiences out there. If this becomes something that is a major part of people’s lives in the next several years, I think the opportunity to develop a business on top of it will present itself.”
What exactly is Portal?
In its essence, Portal is a smart communication tool. It allows users to make video call via Facebook Messenger. But what separates this experience from that of a call from a typical smartphone is that Portal makes use of its camera. The video call is augmented by a camera that can automatically track and zoom into people that are participating in the call.
The device also has Amazon’s Alexa integrated into it. This helps it double as a voice assistant system for homes. The voice assistant market is currently booming. It is estimated that almost 112 million Americans own a voice assistant system. That is a third of the entire population of the U.S. Currently, the market leader is Amazon Echo, which dominates 63% of the market. Voice assistant services from Google follows closely, with a 31% share of the market. Apple and Facebook currently own just 12% of the market. But given the popularity of this system, the competition can be expected to rise in the coming years.
Facebook has been under a lot of fire in recent years for its mishandling of user data. And portal is liable as a date collecting tool. Critics have contemned the service’s data collecting practices. But of course this isn’t a Facebook specific problem. Voice assistants in general have faced the same critique. Most of these devices are always listening to the conversations going on in people’s homes. This raises a lot of questions about privacy.