WHILE ALL the attention has been focused on the Google vs Amazon race for digital butler supremacy (oh yes, and expansion of Bixby, because, well, we don't know), rumours have begun swirling about Facebook's response.
It looks like it's going to be called Facebook Portal, it'll have a video chat screen and it will cost $499.
According to Cheddar, this first dabble into hardware (apart from Oculus, which it owns) is specifically aimed at keeping people in touch. You know, social stuff.
Unlike Amazon Echo Show and the various Google video Assistant devices currently being showcased at CES, Portal will be a voice-controlled (presumably using some jumped up version of its ‘M' Assistant bot) service with a wide-angle lens capable of facial recognition, so it will log into the relevant Facebook account on sight.
It won't have all the personal assistant stuff of its rivals, the report says, but it will have access to the likes of Spotify and Netflix following a number of recent licensing deals with the big music companies.
The current price may well end up being lower - let's face it, it's more than double the price of an Amazon Echo Show which actually does more - and much like Amazon it seems like this isn't about profit, it's about user behaviour.
Essentially this is part of a battle, not just about personal assistants, but about superceding the outmoded concept of a fixed-line telephone.
Whilst in that regard, Amazon's ‘drop-in' feature puts it ahead, Google and Facebook already have video calling rolled out and capacities and customer bases of both are already huge. Compare that with Amazon Echo's calling features. Have you set them up yet? No, us neither.
Facebook is understandably not rushing to corroborate the story, but if the rumours are true, it will be introduced as the first in a new line of consumer hardware, at Facebook's F8 Developer Conference in May. µ
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