Facebook has today announced two new Portal video-calling devices, adding to its expanding hardware catalog, while it’s also adding a new Portal for Business option, which is aimed at helping SMBs leverage video calling for enhanced collaboration and efficiency.
First off on the new devices – seeking to capitalize on the rising interest in remote work, which has already fueled increased take-up of its Portal smart home tools, Facebook is now launching its next-gen Portal+, which includes a 14-inch, tilting display, and Portal Go, a 10-inch, portable video calling device.
The Portal Go is the biggest shift. Essentially an iPad-sized video screen (though chunkier), which is connected to your Facebook contacts for video calls, the Portal Go will provide expanded use capacity for the tool, which could be popular in varying application.
As explained by Facebook:
“Portal Go brings the best of Portal smart video calling to a new, portable form factor. It’s designed to let conversations move from room to room, with an integrated handle and long-lasting battery. Portal Go includes a 12MP Smart Camera with an ultrawide field of view for immersive video calls. And it doubles as a portable speaker with room-filling sound to listen to your favorite music throughout your home.”
In some ways, the Portal Go could be limited by the popularity of the iPad, with much of the market that you would assume might be interested in the device already having a similar option, but it could serve a distinct purpose in facilitating more direct connection with family and friends, which has been a much bigger focus over the past year and a half.
It might also be a good companion device for those working from home, with Facebook’s auto-adjusting camera features helping to facilitate better quality video calls, and with the capacity to take the device anywhere, that could provide new opportunities for your video meetings – or at the least, enable you to change up your background without that ghostly blur of artificial overlays.
The Portal+ meanwhile is more specifically focused on professional use.
“Our new 14-inch Portal+ features a 12MP Smart Camera with an ultrawide field of view. Its stereo speakers deliver high-fidelity sound for crystal-clear audio. With the rise of remote and hybrid work models, Portal+ makes a perfect dedicated screen for work calls, freeing up your computer to take notes, view a presentation, or multitask. Thanks to the large screen, you can see up to 25 people in gallery mode on a Zoom call at one time. It’s also great for connecting with family and friends when the work day is over.”
The WFH shift, which looks set to become a permanent change for many, could spark a rise in demand for improved video-calling devices, and the Portal+ aligns with this, while Facebook is also adding support for Microsoft Teams to all its Portal devices to further align with this use case.
In addition to this, Facebook is also launching Portal for Business, a new service aimed at SMBs, which is designed to help small operators get the most out of Portal’s video calling and collaboration tools.
“With Portal for Business, SMBs will be able to create and manage Facebook Work Accounts for their teams. This is a new account type on Portal and will be available for many Facebook work products over the coming year.”
First announced last week, Facebook’s Work Accounts will let business users log in and operate Business Manager without requiring a personal account. Businesses will also be able to manage these accounts on behalf of their employees, providing more separation between professional and personal use.
Which could also see some users deactivate their personal accounts, if they don’t need them for work anymore – though given its ubiquity, Facebook’s betting that won’t be a large-scale movement.
Portal for Business will also include a device manager element, which will enable company admins to manage devices that have been set up by employees with access to Portal for Business.
While social media remains its clear key focus, Facebook is increasingly moving into hardware as well, with the development of VR headsets, AR glasses, and video calling devices among the company’s growing slate of consumer products.
That’s helped expand its opportunities, with Facebook reporting significant growth in its ‘Other’ revenue category (i.e. everything not in its apps) over the past year.
A big element in this has been the pandemic, and the shift towards remote connection, and people seeking alternate forms of entertainment. But really, the pandemic only accelerated trends that already existed, and were already on a steady rise before we were forced to adapt.
Increased connectivity facilitates more working options, which will reduce travel costs and pollution, while limiting congestion, and stabilizing property prices in prime locations, etc. That could also improve quality of life, with the compounding benefits of more flexible work arrangements pointing to a wide range of logical shifts. The evolutions of VR was also already coming, and now, Facebook is well-positioned to lead that charge as well, while its Ray Ban Stories collaboration is another element that builds on Facebook’s physical product stream, and expands its capacity for future, similar tools.
Make no mistake, this is a critical area for the company. And while it may feel subsidiary, and a sideline interest for Zuck and Co., the potential is there for Facebook to become a much bigger part of everyday life for many people through its hardware streams.
Maybe you don’t see it yet, maybe you won’t see everyone wearing camera-equipped Ray Bans, or Portal devices alongside the toaster in every home, while definitely, some of the broader privacy concerns tied back to Facebook will limit take-up to some degree. But it is building, and as more people buy these devices, others will follow, helping to gather steady gradual momentum for Facebook’s next big push.