Facebook's 'Portal' Smart Speaker Coming Next Week With Alexa Support

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In short: Facebook's repeatedly delayed smart speaker lineup is finally scheduled to be unveiled next week, Cheddar reports, citing sources close to the Menlo Park, Caliornia-based company. The display-equipped gadget will debut with support for Amazon's artificial intelligence assistant Alexa and be available in two sizes, with prices ranging from roughly $300 to $400, insiders claim. The Portal has been internally tested over the last several months and was already pitched to major retailers around the world, though it's still unclear how many will end up carrying the series. A "privacy shutter" designed to cover its wide-angle camera will be part of the package so as to reduce some privacy concerns about the device following Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal and other recent concerns about the firm. The feature is a late addition to the product family that's ironically referred to as "brand tax" at Facebook, as per the same report.

Background: AndroidHeadlines discovered the likely design of at least one of Facebook's first smart speakers earlier this week, with the product concept being visually similar to Amazon's Echo Show. The pricing details cited by the new report suggest the company opted for a lower introductory price given how it previously considered a $500 entry point, insiders claimed earlier this year. It's still unclear whether both devices will be advertised as the Portal given how they have been developed as standalone products code-named Aloha and Fiona.

Impact: Facebook's push into consumer electronics is unlikely to see the company generate a large side business in the near future; the growing competition in the segment coupled by privacy concerns surrounding the firm, as well as the relatively high price tags it reportedly plans to attach to its smart speakers will all likely limit the commercial potential of the upcoming gadgets. Still, with the company apparently being unwilling to count its losses and going ahead with a 2018 launch despite everything that transpired in the global privacy debate in the meantime, it's unlikely that these smart speakers are a one-off and should instead be interpreted as a sign of Facebook's growing ambitions in the consumer electronics segment.

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