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Facebook Gets The Smart Speaker Itch

Facebook is gearing up to enter the smart speaker market this year with the social media giant reportedly gearing up to roll out two models in the middle of this year.

According to a report in DigiTimes, citing industry sources, the devices, both 15-inch touchscreens are being called Aloha and Fiona internally and should hit the market by July, at the latest. The devices will be aimed at helping family and friends stay in touch and will include video chat and other social media features. The entrance of Facebook into the smart speaker market is expected to heat up an already competitive market where Amazon and its Alexa voice-activated virtual assistant baked into its Echo devices are dominating the market. Apple recently rolled out its version of the smart speaker, the HomePod, which has high-quality sound and a hefty price tag along with it.

Supply chain sources told DigiTimes that Facebook initially planned on rolling out the smart speakers in May but has opted to delay the launch to perfect the acoustic quality and for software changes. The devices are expected to use touchscreen panels from LG Display. The report noted Taiwan’s Pegatron is reportedly the only contract assembler for the devices. The Aloha is expected to be the more high-end model and will officially be called Portal. It will use voice commands and will use facial recognition to identify users to access Facebook. With Portal, Facebook has also inked music licensing deals with Sony and Universal Music, noted the report. The two devices are expected to be part of an ecosystem of video consumer devices that the social media giant brings out during the next five years. The smart speakers, noted the report, are just the first two, initial stage devices.

In January Cheddar reported Facebook’s plans to launch Portal. Cheddar said the Portal is being marketed as a way for friends and families to connect via video chat and social features, rather than a voice-controlled speaker.

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