Digital Trend Alert


What is Facebook Portal

What is Facebook Portal?

by Carol Ingley

President, Media Mogul Enterprises

Week of January 13 through Week of February 10, 2020

Digital Trends: Facebook Portal, Facebook Portal Mini, Facebook Portal Plus, Facebook Portal TV, Amazon, Apple, Google, smart devices, smart displays 


     Another Niche Device...or Not. Facebook Portal is a smart display that is both a video chat product and a service if connected to wi-fi. Is this just another niche smart device?

Facebook Portal as niche device

     According to the Verge, Andrew Boswoth, head of augmented and virtual reality technology at Facebook, has this to say about Portal:  “We know the smart device category is packed and competitive. Those devices are great. They will answer the door for you and tell you a joke. But Portal is the one device that will connect you with the people you care the most about.”

     So, did that answer the question of just another device? In a way, Bosworth is saying, yes, this is just another device but it has a critical function: connecting you with the people you care the most about.

     Another answer, however, is no, this is not just another device. This is Facebook entering the hardware marketplace in a big way and it is strategically important. (However, it should be noted that Facebook already has the Oculus headset as a product but it’s still early in virtual reality development.)

     Equally important is that Portal is part of keeping up with three other large leading companies like Facebook –-Amazon, Google and Apple—who are already successful in the hardware marketplace. So Portal is being offered for two big reasons: as a useful niche product and as a learning curve for Facebook in the hardware marketplace.

     Portal as a Product and a Service. Facebook Portal is a hardware device, a smart display that plugs in and has the ability to connect to the internet. Once connected to wi-fi, it’s an internet device that provides video chat using Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. As an additional feature, it is integrated with Amazon’s Alexa, a voice-controlled personal assistant service. All Portal devices are AI-powered with  smart camera and smart sound technology. The Portal smart camera is able to zoom in as well as track people’s movements. This tracking uses the camera’s wide angle lens.

     Types of Portal Devices. There are four Portal models: Portal, Portal Plus, Portal Mini and Portal TV. The first three are designed to fit into a home’s decor – looking similar to a digital photo frame. Portal TV looks different than the other three devices, more like a webcam.

     Generations and Pricing. Portal, Portal Mini and Portal Plus were announced as first generation devices in October 2018.  The second generation of Portal and Portal Mini was announced in September 2019 as well as their price, $179 for the Portal and $129 for the Portal Mini.  Portal TV was first announced in November 2019. Current prices for Portal Plus and Portal TV are $279 and $149 respectively.

Types of Facebook Portal Smart Displays

     Size of Devices. Portal can be seen as the standard size device with a 10-inch display whereas Portal Mini is smaller (8-inch display) and Portal Plus is larger (15.6 inch display). Distinct from these three, Portal TV is a combined camera and microphone attachment for your television.

     Ads for Portal. There is something about the TV ads for Portal that suggest Facebook is not only excited about this product line but very comfortable with its fit into its mission: to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. Portal does, indeed, seem to fit right in with that statement.

     Growth Issues and Trust Issues. Facebook has been phenomenally successful as a company. Yet it faces two big challenges: growth issues and trust issues. With its billions of users, it must innovate to keep that base and build upon it. Portal provides an additional and exciting feature for Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp users. Facebook also has lingering trust issues from many of the moves it has made in the past, including data breaches. It will have to chip away slowly for trust to return.

     Smart Move. This move by Facebook into smart displays seems like a smart move. It may not be a big money maker for the company, but it provides a new feature for Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp users while allowing Facebook as a company to become comfortable with having hardware as part of its business.

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