Facebook's Portal Speaker Cam: Good Idea at the Wrong Time?

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On today’s episode of the Tech Talk Tuesday podcast, Ryan McQueeney discusses Facebook’s new Portal device, a fresh entrant to the growing pool of home assistants and smart speakers. As Ryan points out, the timing of this video-chat gadget has already raised questions amid data privacy concerns and intense competition.

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Social media giant Facebook (FB Free Report) announced on Tuesday a new line of camera-equipped smart speaker for use with its Messenger application. Named “Portal” and “Portal Plus,” these devices come equipped with artificial intelligence technology and several features designed to replicate in-person hangouts.

The Portal is a big step forward for the Messenger brand, which boasts over 1 billion users but it is largely seen as an add-on to the regular Facebook platform. It also adds a new hardware-first revenue pipeline for Facebook—right at a time when its advertising business is being scrutinized more than ever.

Facebook also enters a growing subindustry of smart speakers and home automation devices that is currently dominated by Amazon (AMZN Free Report) and Alphabet (GOOGL Free Report) .

From a design perspective, Facebook’s Portal actually resembles Amazon’s new Echo Show, which begins shipping later this week. The Portal announcement also comes just one day before Alphabet is expected to reveal the latest in its Google Home line at a new “Made by Google” event.

Facebook’s desire to grab a slice of this pie is advantageous, but as Ryan points out in this week’s Tech Talk Tuesday, it may have bitten off a bit more than it can chew. Ryan argues that, although it would be normally be savvy for Facebook to steal Amazon’s and Google’s spotlight, the social media king simply does not carry the clout to pull off such a move right now.

If you want to seriously contend with the Amazon Echo and Google Home, you better be able to control the conversation surrounding its reveal. But Facebook is still facing serious public distrust over several data privacy scandals, and the Portal announcement quickly turned into jokes at its expense.

It’s easy to understand why. Oh, one of the least trusted internet companies in America wants to put a camera in my living room? That seems like a tough sell right now.

Make sure to check out the show to hear Ryan’s full thoughts on the conversation!

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