February 16, 2018
By no later than July 2018, Facebook plans to introduce two smart speakers with 15-inch touchscreens. Code-named Aloha and Fiona, the two smart speakers, say sources, are aimed to let family and friends stay in touch with video chat and other social features. With the launch, Facebook joins Amazon, Alibaba, Apple, Google and Microsoft, all of which have debuted smart speakers into the global marketplace. According to Canalys, smart speaker sales are on track to double to over 50 million units in 2018.
DigiTimes reports that Facebook originally planned to launch the speakers in May, “but has decided to reschedule the launch to allow more time for perfecting the acoustic quality of the gadgets and software modification.” Sources say that LG Display will supply the touchscreens, and Taiwan’s Pegatron will reportedly “be the sole contract assembler of the devices.”
Sources add that, “the Aloha model is more sophisticated than Fiona, both designed by Facebook’s Building 8 hardware lab.” The Aloha, which will be released with the name Portal, “will use voice commands but will also feature facial recognition to identify users for accessing Facebook via a wide-angle lens on the front of the device.”
Portal will also feature more social networking functions. Facebook has also reportedly “signed music licensing contracts with Sony [Music] and Universal Music to enrich the device’s applications.” Rival Amazon’s popular Echo Show sports a 7-inch screen.
BGR reports that Facebook’s launch of smart speakers is “an incredibly scary thought,” because “Facebook already tracks everything you do online so it can make more money from ads,” making a Facebook smart speaker sound “a lot more intrusive than Google’s or Amazon’s.” Facebook will also launch additional “terminal devices” in coming years. Prices for the two smart speakers have “not been leaked.”