We saw it with netbooks of yesteryear; clumsy and cheap little notebooks that were sure to kill the Mac. Apple didn’t make a netbook Mac. The netbook died. The Mac prospered. Apple’s recent history is littered with such trends. Yep, this is another one.
We saw the same kind of thing happen with 3G and 4G on the iPhone. Apple wasn’t first to adopt. Apple was doomed. Then, Apple didn’t have a smartwatch. Then Watch came along. Guess which company owns the premium end of the smartwatch industry? How about the talking speaker trend with Amazon Echo and Google Home?
It took a few years for Apple to introduce HomePod and the premium speaker line now owns all the profits in the segment and Siri on HomePod has become smarter faster than Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa.
Apple needs a HomePod smart display. Says who? I’m sticking myself out on the prognostication limb for two reasons. First, Facebook’s Portal TV commercials are so well done that even using Facebook seems compelling. Second, Siri may be the most used talking speaker-like personal assistant, but Portal displays a casual usage that might start a new trend.
Casual communication. You know; like talking to someone as if they’re beside you or nearby, but they’re not.
FaceTime does the same thing, right? And FaceTime works on over 1-billion Apple devices. It would take forever and a month for Facebook to sell that many Portals. After all, each one costs a few hundred dollars and you need one on each end of the conversation.
From what I can tell, there is absolutely nothing that Facebook Portal does that cannot be done on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac already– via FaceTime, Skype, Siri, or the half million apps available on iOS and macOS.
So, why the big deal? What is it about Facebook Portal that would help people overcome their fear of being tracked incessantly by Facebook?
Comfort. Effortless ease of use. One-to-one communication. Always on. Even Facebook acknowledges the fear many of their users have over privacy issues.
Facebook doesn’t listen to, view or keep the contents of your Portal video calls. Your Portal conversations stay between you and the people you’re calling.
What about the always-on camera and microphone?
You can completely disable the camera and microphone with a single tap, or block the camera lens with the camera cover provided.
Even Amazon’s Echo and Alexa team, and Siri on Mac, iPhone, and iPad cannot– yet– identify who you are, and only know what you ask, what you want, and where you are.
Smart Camera uses AI technology that runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers. Portal’s camera does not use facial recognition and does not identify who you are.
What you seem to get with Portal is a telephone with a speaker, microphone, and camera. When it rings, you answer– and you can see and hear whoever is on the other end of the call. That’s compelling– at least, compelling based upon Facebook’s Portal TV commercials.
Facebook has a tough row to hoe with Portal. It works with Messenger on personal computers, tablets, and smartphones, so there is a measure of ubiquity and convenience. Portal does not do as much as what you can do with your devices already so getting a hundred million people on the Portal platform will be a major challenge.
What about Apple?
Are not iPhone, iPad, and Mac already a Facebook Portal of sorts? Yes. And as much as each device is always on it surprises me that not many people use FaceTime or Skype in the same way as Facebook’s Portal is used on the TV commercials. Casual communication.
Apple could put another dent in the universe with a HomePod smart display of sorts that can identify users (thank you, Shazam technology), run FaceTime, Skype, and Facebook Messenger, and with similar built-in technology in the camera to follow people around the room, always keeping them within the video frame.
Apple needs a HomePod speaker with a smart display.