Not everyone has a visceral reaction to Facebook. And some even love interacting with their service. While that is not the sentiment expressed among the tech elite and pundits, there is no denying the utility and convenience of Facebook when it comes to its core competency.
Hardware is another matter. Even Facebook’s most loyal enthusiasts have been hesitant to try Facebook outside of messaging and communication. While Facebook never made a phone, they did make an Android launcher for Android phones. It didn’t go well.
Now, Facebook has decided to go all-out into hardware and join the parade of device makers who are doing their best to make smart displays happen. So far, no company has really risen above the rest to claim top position. Amazon Echo Show probably has the lead just because it was first to market. Since then, Google has enabled a whole line of Android Smart Displays. Up to now, no one has really found the winning formula. Facebook believes they have cracked the code. The Verge has more on the strategy.
“Facebook’s home video chat devices, the Portal and Portal Plus, are going on sale today, a month after they were initially announced.
“The products are almost exclusively focused on video chatting. While they also display photos, play music, and support a small number of video networks, their feature set is very limited at launch — you can’t even browse Facebook on them.”
It could be that Facebook is right. Other smart displays have tried to be all things to all people, as new products in new product caters often are. The Apple Watch suffered the same issue with version 1. But Series 4 is a critical success now that the device is more focused.
Facebook has made the initial marketing of the device all about video calls. If the only thing you knew about the Portal was from Facebook’s own ads, you would think that video calls were all it was capable of doing. The big differentiator is that the Portal can follow you around as you move. That frees the caller from having to stay in a single place and holding a single pose at a fixed distance from the camera.
The problem with the Facebook Portal is not the hardware, the price, or even their intentions. It is Facebook’s reputation. It is one thing to use Facebook, and quite another to trust them. Facebook has historically been perceived as being too casual when it comes to data privacy.
We are not that far from the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica. New accusations recently surfaced that Facebook is still not doing enough to protect users data despite being in the spotlight. There are plenty of people who do trust Facebook. But are there enough of them to make a product like this a success in the marketplace? Only time will tell.
You can purchase a smaller version for $199, and a larger one for $349.