At last! A Facebook device in my kitchen (and bedroom)

As Facebook releases its first smart speakers, there's one issue that Facebook will find hardest to overcome. And it's not the privacy thing.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

In the halcyon days of tech, Facebook crept into your life and just wouldn't leave.

You hardly knew it was there. It sat quietly and allowed you to ramble loudly about every (positive) aspect of your life and every (negative) aspect of other people's.

It's comforting, therefore, that the company this morning released its first attempt at a smart speaker -- the Portal and Portal + -- with such little fanfare.

Also: Facebook Portal and Portal+ video calling devices: Should you buy them?

Facebook must see the irony in releasing a listening-and-watching product at a moment when its privacy record is as good as the Cleveland Browns win-percentage in the past couple of years.

Of course, Facebook promises that it won't keep a record of anything you do or say while using one of its Portals. Of course, no one will believe it.

They look as innocent as Mark Zuckerberg answering questions in Congress. (Image: Facebook)

A valid question, though, is whether anyone will care.

I fear that with every security breach at seemingly every large company in America, humans have decided that, yes, their data might be stolen, while merely hoping that it won't be used against them.

It's a little like hoping your home won't get burgled. You calculate the chances, and you pray a little each night.

Also: Facebook's Portal video device launches amid privacy concerns CNET

This doesn't mean, however, that Portals will be flying off the online shelves.

Facebook has another, perhaps even more fundamental, problem here. No consumer has ever given it money -- unless that consumer is a company or a small Russian cabal wishing to advertise on the site.

Buying an actual product from Facebook has no precedent. Facebook simply isn't a consumer product brand.

To suddenly expect people to have a physical Facebook product in their kitchen or bedroom -- and pay up to $340 for it -- is a mighty challenge.

Many years ago, Google enjoyed the same issue. The company truly thought that it could release phones, sell them online with little to no customer support, and everyone would flock to the idea.

Remember the Nexus? You're likely one of the few.

When it comes to smart speakers, Facebook's competitors have all learned -- sometimes the hard way -- how to sell hardware.

It took Google years of practice -- and, dare I say it, cuddly consumer-focused advertising -- to gain a warm relationship with consumers. This was the base from which products like Google Home could gain a little traction.

Also: Facebook Portal first look: Next level Messenger video chat CNET

Amazon, too, had its hardware failures before managing to be first with something cheap that somehow made people cheerful: The Amazon Echo.

And then there's Apple, which has more experience of hardware than all of these companies combined and is far, far ahead in customer service.

Of course, I'm so excited by the idea of inviting Facebook into my house to stay as long as it likes, which I know is something Facebook would dearly love to do.

Who wouldn't want a device that sits around and displays Facebook notifications and your favorite videos -- while it's otherwise idle -- and you cook, clean, or floss?

Ultimately, though, when it comes to allowing a brand to creep through my front door and take off its shoes, I'd rather have one that might, just might be a brand I can warm to.

Adjust these Facebook privacy settings to protect your personal data


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