“And now a message from the Supreme Leader, Mark Zuckerberg…”
Yes, the idea this time is a rival to the Amazon Fire or Roku streaming stick with the usual streaming channels… only with an added camera. This isn’t so that you can keep an eye on the state of your HDMI ports – instead, the plan is reportedly for the streaming device to sit atop your set, like a webcam stuck in your TV.
Rather than making this easier to film future series of Gogglebox, the hope is that you’ll use your TV to make video calls, like you’re living on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, only with more empty pizza boxes. This will apparently feature an AR element, applying face filters and the like, just like they never did in Star Trek.
One open question is whether or not the device will come with its own speaker. On the plus side, it would avoid having to tweak sound settings for calls and then tweak them back for Cash in the Attic. On the other, adding a speaker – especially a half-decent one – costs money, which could make a Facebook-branded product look prohibitively expensive compared to a Chromecast or Fire TV Stick. On the other hand, Facebook does have the resources to absorb the costs, if it thinks this is a surefire winner to get hardware into people’s homes.
Of course, a bigger bar to entry than the cost is arguably Facebook’s less-than-stellar reputation on privacy. While the #deletefacebook movement doesn’t seem to have dented Zuckerberg’s wallet in any measurable way, there’s a big difference between people making peace with the compromises of a free service and actively paying to put a Facebook-branded camera and microphone in their living rooms.
Which is probably why the only people raving about Facebook Portal this year have been Facebook employees. µ