Who Could Possibly Want a Facebook Portal? – TheStreet.com | Social Media
Anyone feel like putting a Facebook camera in your kitchen or living room?
The device is called Portal, and it’s a voice-activated video chat device that allows you to talk with family and friends in the comfort of your home. Retailing at $199 for a 10-inch version and $349 for a 15-inch version called the Portal+, it’s Facebook’s first foray into the increasingly crowded home speaker assistant category.
The fast-growing market for voice-activated smart speakers is currently dominated by Amazon’s (AMZN) Echo family of devices and Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Google Home.
But given Facebook’s long-standing issues with data privacy and security — which again came to the surface after it revealed a breach of 50 million user accounts on Sept. 28 — the Portal has many observers scratching their heads.
The Portal, which is most comparable to Amazon’s $229 Echo Show device, connects directly with Facebook and Facebook Messenger and delivers content from Spotify, Pandora, iHeart Radio, Food Network and Newsy, among other features. But how many users will shell out for a Facebook-made camera in their kitchen or living room is unclear.
“We think these devices are interesting and will perhaps appeal to more active users of Facebook and/or Messenger, but wonder about adoption given FB’s recent significant privacy issues,” wrote Scott Kessler at CFRA Research.
Reportedly, Facebook had hoped to unveil the Portal at the company’s F8 developer conference in May, but put off the announcement after the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke.
In a seeming acknowledgment of its significant privacy issues, Facebook wrote in a blog post that the Portal is “built with privacy and security in mind,” and outlines the way your data is and isn’t used. “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,” Facebook wrote in the post, also making note of other features like a cover that can block the camera lens when you’re not using it.
Regardless, the drumbeat of negative stories around Facebook and privacy concerns “will make this device a tougher sell to consumers,” added Greg Sparrow, of the risk management firm CompliancePoint.
“Consumers must have some level of trust to interact with these types of devices,” said Sparrow. “Users must trust that the companies deploying this technology are using this information in accordance with their expectations. Sadly, this often is not the case.”
Facebook’s issues with consumer trust are long-standing: An April poll found that a majority of respondents (56%) considered Facebook the least trustworthy tech company.
Whether Facebook can make a successful entry into a market dominated by Amazon and Alphabet is another question. In the U.S., the breakdown by market share was Amazon (62%), followed by Google (27%) and Apple’s (AAPL) Homepod at a distant third (4%) according to a May report by Voicebot.ai. To boot, Amazon is preparing to unleash a slew of new Alexa-powered devices that may further entrench it in the smart speaker ecosystem.
Facebook shares were roughly flat on Monday, dropping 0.052%.
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