In short: Following close to a year of delays prompted by various circumstances, Facebook is expected to finally launch its first smart speaker range this fall, and this may be how the products end up looking like. The social media giant is reportedly working on two models, code-named Aloha and Fiona, with at least one of them featuring a 15-inch display panel, whereas the other one may have a smaller screen. The premium device is expected to be advertised as the Portal and should rival the likes of Amazon's Echo Show and Lenovo's Smart Display after launching in the coming weeks. The galleries below show two device concepts, one of which has been envisioned in a couple of variants, with all of them recently being protected as Facebook's intellectual property, according to EUIPO filings reviewed by AndroidHeadlines.
Background: Facebook already protected one smart speaker design earlier this year but with that particular concept lacking a display panel, the newly discovered images are believed to be much closer to what the Menlo Park, California-based firm is planning to commercialize this fall. Facebook delayed the gadgets on two occasions so far, having originally wanted to introduce them in the first half of 2018. The first postponement was prompted by development issues, whereas the second one came due to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, with the firm wanting to avoid additional scrutiny of its user privacy policies this spring. The data-harvesting ordeal also prompted Facebook to redesign the speaker's information management procedures as biometrics data and other sensitive user info will now be stored locally, while the original plan was to have them uploaded to the cloud, sources claimed earlier this year.
The upcoming speakers have both been manufactured in Taiwan and will allow for video calls, music playback, and some degree of Internet browsing. Facebook may use them to push its Watch service, especially given how it recently secured licensing agreements with the three largest music labels on the planet – Warner Music Group, Sony/ATV Music, and Universal Music Group. The gadgets were originally developed by Building 8, Facebook's moonshot facility which has been without a formal leader for nine months now after tech veteran Regina Dugan left the firm early this year. Building 8 recently posted a handful of new openings for quality-assurance and marketing positions, AndroidHeadlines has learned, suggesting it's planning to commercialize some of its products in the near future.
The Portal and its sister speaker will both support facial and speech recognition, with the Internet juggernaut reportedly targeting an October launch and global availability. Facebook likely wants to have devices available for purchase in time for the next holiday season, traditionally the most lucrative period of the year for consumer electronics vendors. The more expensive speaker may retail for as much as $500, industry sources claimed earlier this year. The newly spotted designs show largely bezel-less and minimalist products with a single front-facing camera and a trio of physical buttons. The displays found on the upcoming speakers are expected to be touchscreen-enabled, though it remains unclear whether Facebook developed a proprietary operating system for the devices or opted to license an existing solution such as Android Things, with the former scenario being more likely.
Impact: After making history in the social networking world, Facebook is now trying to become a relevant consumer electronics player and the launch of its smart speaker lineup will mark the first major step on that quest. Besides Amazon and Lenovo, the company's products are also expected to compete directly with Google's offerings as Alphabet's subsidiary is planning to introduce a similar device called the Google Home Hub next month, according to one recent leak.
Facebook Smart Speaker Concept 1
Facebook Smart Speaker Concept 2