There has already been plenty of discussion about the smart home devices from Amazon. A couple of days ago, a review of the Google event came out, which can be safely considered as one of the most boring announcements of the year.
However, there was one company that kind of stayed behind the scenes with the whole “smart home” trend. This company is Facebook, and they have been trying extensively to enter the market of smart home assistants. In this post, I want to tell you more about their Facebook Portal device, as well as how this market can change in the near future. At this point, the competition is getting fierce between such titans of the industry as Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook. All very powerful and influential firms that have almost unlimited intellectual and financial resources.
If there was a competition for the most creative name in the smart assistant game, Facebook would definitely win. Judge for yourselves: Google Home Hub, Amazon Echo, Apple Home Pod. It seems like only Amazon actually tried to put some effort into the branding. Compared to all that, Facebook’s “Portal” sounds futuristic and innovative, reminiscing the once-groundbreaking videogame of the same name.
So, Facebook Portal is sort of a tablet on a stand that has a built-in webcam. The main purpose of the device are video calls.
The device’s camera can tilt and move and follow the subject. Imagine you’re pacing around the kitchen, and the camera follows your movements, pointing the microphones accordingly. By the way, the mics in the Portal are not your usual ones. They are designed specifically to register human speech and to cut off the background noises.
In the idle mode, photos, notifications, calendar are displayed on the screen. Of course, the device can work as a music player. Facebook promised powerful built-in speakers that provide hi-fi sound.
Apart from video calls, the device can play music from free Spotify premium account generator and act as Bluetooth speaker, as well as supports its own Facebook Watch video service (but other providers will soon catch up). Since the device is aimed at family communication, Facebook tried to make it as easy to use as possible so that the elderly and children could easily cope with it. All voice control, no need to press any buttons, it’s enough to just ask the device to call someone you’re friends on Facebook with.
After the data leaks scandals, Facebook decided to play it safe and approached the security of the device in the simplest but most reliable way. On top of the device there is a button that cuts off the power to the microphone and camera. You can also just cover the lens of the camera with a cap.
There are two versions of the device. A small 10-inch tablet for 200 USD and a large device with an elongated 15,6 inch screen for 349 USD.
So, the device is a pretty handy thing for family and friendly communication. However, Facebook decided to go further and added support for Amazon’s Alexa. And it transforms the device from a smart video phone into a full-fledged command center for managing a smart home, since Alexa can control all Amazon-compatible devices and perform all actions. From calling a taxi to setting the AC temperature or controlling your sockets.
Is this the beginning of a great friendship?
So there are 3 different types of devices on the market now – Apple HomePod, Google Hub and Amazon Echo with Facebook Portal. I have combined Amazon and Facebook into one, since Alexa is responsible for the smart features in both gadgets. And such a strategic alliance, by the way, has serious potential for success, because social networks and online shopping are simply made for each other.
The situation on the market is quite interesting. For example, there is a company such as Apple, which invests the maximum amount of effort and resources to engage, in one way or another, users on its infrastructure and fully control all communication – from purchase to repair. Recently the news surfaced that Apple is trying to make it so that only official service centers can repair the MacBooks. Accordingly, the hub for Apple’s smart home – HomePod column fully reflects the company’s policy. The device can only work in the Apple ecosystem, where only select third-party vendors are allowed. Security is a key advantage justifying such a dictate. Unlike other companies that sell user data to advertisers, Apple doesn’t share anything.
In contrast to Apple, there is Google. Google entered this market in order to create an integration between its devices and its services. If you watched the latest presentation from Google, then you may have noticed that the company now offers gifts to the buyers of its devices – for instance, a YouTube premium subscription. In this case, I think, it is not necessary to say much on how the company deals with the data of its users. Google collects it from various sources, analyzes them and uses them to sell advertising. The company examines the contents of your mailboxes, views on YouTube, search queries, activity on an Android smartphone, etc. Accordingly, we can say almost certainly that a buyer of a Google Hub will start getting various suggestions and hints in the ads.
Amazon and Facebook are a whole different story. Amazon decided not to marry to its own hardware. The company offers partnerships to almost all other smart home devices manufacturers, claiming that Alexa can work with most smart devices. This is Amazon’s prerogative. The company wants to be number one on the smart home market because, fundamentally, Amazon sells all kinds of goods for your home – from groceries to electronics and TV shows. Amazon is a retailer, and their goal is to sell things, not provide means of communication. And this is their weakness.
Because we have Facebook in the other corner, which is a communication-oriented company. And right now they are searching for other development paths other than selling the users’ data. For instance, recently Facebook launched a dating service. Facebook is also very interesting for Amazon, since the former controls almost all major means of online communication – Facebook, Facebook Messenger and Instagram. To Boost your Brand and increase your Insta handle Followers.
For Facebook, such a side partnership with Amazon is interesting because, if you recall previous stories, you can conclude that the company cannot sell only the social component. Why pay when you can go to the site for free.
We can expect the same for Facebook Portal. Of course, it’s great when you have a separate device for video calls, but you can also just go to the Facebook website or use Skype. Accordingly, Alexa turns Portal from a simple video phone into a whole central hub for a smart home and not only. Facebook, unlike Google, Apple and Amazon, has a rather vulnerable business model, since the company, in fact, does not sell anything. Yes, Facebook sells data to advertisers, but the company has neither products nor services for which users pay money.The recent data leak scandals cast an even bigger shade on the company’s reputation. The recent fall of Facebook’s stock prices shows that the market is no longer willing to look the other way when such mishaps happen.
If Facebook succeeds in establishing cooperation with Amazon, then this could be a lifeboat
for the company.
I’d like to conclude that, despite the fact that at the current point in time, Facebook’s position looks the weakest, it seems to me that the company has more potential than that of Apple, which is locked in its cozy ecosystem. Apple’s scale is much smaller than that of Google and no open approach like Amazon. The power of Facebook are 1 billion users who visit the website, and that the social network is open to cooperation and experimentation.
- What is Network Address Translation?
- What is Sensex?