08.05.18

A Facebook speaker may still be coming... but just not right now

mock up of Facebook speaker - echo show with like icon on screen
Image: YouTube

Reports from CNBC suggest despite there being no word on Facebook’s rumoured “smart” speaker offering at its F8 conference last week, it still could be in the works.

Facebook’s product roadmap may have been somewhat thwarted lately.

The privacy concerns raised by the Cambridge Analytica scandal which saw 50 million profiles on the site harvested in a data breach (leading to its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg appearing before Congress last month) means it had to put its plans to launch an always-listening connected speaker on ice.

Rather than discuss possible launches for the connected home (said to include hardware products and a connected speaker offering video-chat capabilities), calming concerns regarding data privacy was the main thing on the agenda for Facebook at its largest annual gathering of developers last week.

First reports about a Facebook speaker came back in August 2017, with rumours of a $499-priced speaker “Portal” supporting social media, voice control and video chat. This was followed by murmurs of a July 2018 launch for two Facebook connected speakers with 15-in touchscreens set to rival the likes of the Amazon Echo Show in the marketplace.

Word is Facebook may first test the waters outside the US, and launch its speaker across the pond – said to possibly incorporating technology seen in the less-than-successful "M" chatbot debuted by the tech giant.

Watch this space if Facebook is actually confident enough in its own appeal to launch a smart speaker it feels can seriously compete with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant devices. With the industry currently worth a cool $2.68 billion this year (forecast to rise to $11.79 billion by 2023), you can’t expect Mark Zuckerberg won’t want to try and get a piece of the action in growing Facebook’s ever-expanding empire.