Facebook Reportedly Wants to Steal the Home Speaker Show With a Device of Its Own

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Credit: Google, Amazon, Facebook

Facebook is not retreating from competition for the home against Google, Amazon and Apple, as it turns out, reportedly planning to sell a communication-focused tablet called Portal.

The device could vie for space in people's kitchens and living rooms with similar gadgets from Google, Amazon and Apple, which all have voice-assisted speakers. Facebook's Portal would sell for $500 starting this summer of 2018, according to Cheddar, the digital streaming news service that first reported the story, citing unidentified people familiar with the situation.

Facebook declined to comment to Cheddar.

"We're not commenting on these reports," the company told Ad Age. "We have shared that Building 8 is working on consumer devices that will bring people together in new ways," it added, referring to Facebook's experimental hardware lab.

Portal will focus on communication and video calls rather than the voice-assisted controls that devices like Amazon's Echo highlight, Cheddar said.

Just this week, Facebook pulled back from the voice-assistant market by announcing plans to shut down M, its artificial intelligence-backed concierge service that was developed to compete with Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa.

Facebook said Monday that it would apply to other products what it learned from testing M. It is unclear whether that will include Portal.

The Facebook home device wouldn't be the company's first attempt to sell hardware or break into consumer products. Facebook sells the Oculus Rift virtual reality gaming headgear. Facebook also developed phones with electronics partners, but those efforts failed.

On Tuesday, Google also had new devices to show off, timed to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where electronics partners like LG revealed they would sell home-screen tablets with Google software built in.

Those devices would compete directly with the Amazon Echo Show, which is a voice-controlled speaker with a screen.

It remains to be seen if Facebook can compete in this category of consumer goods with big rivals having head starts. On Tuesday, there were rumblings of concerns about privacy and letting Facebook into the home with a camera and listening device. The reported price of $500 is also more than twice the cost of an Amazon Echo Show or LG's new Google screen.

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