Historical Stock Chart
2 Months : From Aug 2019 to Oct 2019
By Jeff Horwitz
Facebook Inc. is getting into the streaming game, launching a new set-top version of its Portal device that adds to the company's bet that the future of smart homes will be social.
The second-generation Portal devices will include one with television chat and video-streaming capabilities, while all models are equipped with speakers and a camera that track people as they move around a room. The devices use artificial intelligence to home in on voices as well as create special effects and casual games among friends.
The products announced Wednesday are an update of the original Portal devices released in October, which were lauded for their ease of use but caught up in intense scrutiny of privacy missteps by Facebook. At a demonstration of the new devices, the company stressed that users could opt out of sending any data to Facebook, and designers stressed numerous physical features that would clearly demonstrate to users when the device was off or not filming them.
With the new launch, Facebook joins an increasingly crowded field of players offering streaming devices, including Roku Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.
Andrew Bosworth, who heads Facebook's hardware business, played down the competition among providers to offer more content, saying Portal's strength was access to people.
"You will be hard-pressed to find another device that you can use to contact as many people as you care about," said Mr. Bosworth. "This is the killer feature for a device like this in your home."
Along with its video-chat features, the Portal TV device will be able to stream content from Facebook, Amazon Prime, Spotify and a limited number of other services. Asked why other major providers -- including Netflix and the forthcoming Disney + -- chose not to make their products accessible via the device, Mr. Bosworth said he hoped more would sign on later.
"I think people are still learning about it," he said.
In addition to Facebook messenger, users of the new Portal devices can make video calls using Facebook's WhatsApp platform, employing the product's end-to-end encryption.
The new Portal devices are cheaper than the original models, with the Portal Mini selling for $129, the Portal at $179 and Portal TV at $149. Mr. Bosworth declined to say whether the products break even at their current retail price, but said Facebook viewed Portal and its other augmented and virtual-reality hardware initiatives as longer-term investments.
"At some point, they have the potential to be mainstream for consumers," he said.
Write to Jeff Horwitz at Jeff.Horwitz@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
September 18, 2019 08:14 ET (12:14 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.