Facebook Unveils New Video Devices and Portal for Business

With COVID-19 continuing to drive the popularity of video chatting, Facebook is doubling down with new iterations of its Portal devices that includes the battery-powered Portal Go and a new Portal+ along with the announcement of Portal for Business, a service that will make it possible for small and mid-size businesses to purchase, deploy and remotely manage Portal devices for employees. Facebook’s Portal devices, which debuted in 2018, compete with Amazon’s Echo Show and Google’s Nest Hub products for the home. The recommitment indicates Facebook believes video calling is here to stay.

With the Portal Go (below), Facebook has addressed what CNET says is “an issue no other major smart display maker has: portability.” The $199 Portal Go charges with a small magnetic dock with a convenient handle for toting around. It has a 12-megapixel camera, a 1,280×800 pixel screen and a battery built to last for up to five hours of calling via Messenger or 14 hours of listening with the screen off.

Designed to sit next to users’ computers, the Portal+ (below) has a 14-inch display that can be tilted forward and back and enables a 25-person gallery in Zoom. Facebook is touting its superior sound quality to the predecessor model. It retails for $349.

CNET queried why Facebook feels its Portals are superior to tablets for video calling, and was told “the wide-angle, panning camera and tuned audio make it better for video calling than a tablet, and that built-in Facebook Assistant and Amazon Alexa features are an advantage.”

The Household Mode feature is another distinction. “[The] Portal is meant to be used as a communal device that is available for everyone in the home. Tablets are really designed as personal devices and aren’t typically used in ways where household members can depend on them being available,” said Facebook communications lead Lisa Auslen.

Portal supports videoconferencing apps including Zoom, BlueJeans and Webex. Microsoft Teams will be added in December, allowing Portal users to access their Teams calendars, contacts, file sharing and chat functionality on the devices, CNBC points out. The new Portals are pre-ordering now and will begin shipping on October 19.

The new Portal for Business service is a fit for Facebook “as more companies shift to remote and hybrid setups,” Facebook head of Portal product management Micah Collins told CNBC. It will launch in beta later this year in the U.S. and will become more widely available in 2022. “Portal is extremely useful given the amount of video connection we have to sustain during a workday, and that trend isn’t going away,” he said.