Facebook is working on an Apple TV and Fire TV rival, according to Variety. Fitting into the brand’s Portal line of hardware, the device will reportedly feature a camera for video-calling, far-field microphones for detecting audio, and a slew of other useless features that people are bound to cast aside, because let’s face it: Few people likely want to create a Facebook Story from their television, let alone position what is for all intents and purposes a monitoring station at the center of their home (remember Cambridge Analytica, anyone?).
That hasn’t stopped Facebook from developing the hardware, according to the Variety. The report also claims Facebook reached out to leading streaming services, including Disney and Netflix, to convince them to develop exclusive streaming clients for the hardware, indicating that the Portal will ship running a modified build of its Android mobile software instead of Android TV.
Variety thinks it knows why, though. The publication has learned from its various sources that Facebook is hoping the hardware will act as the ultimate home entertainment hub, putting video-calling at the forefront. Want to chat with family abroad? Gather the whole family in the living room in front of the device and host the conversation on the big screen, using the Portal’s camera and microphones to participate. It is also said to have an integrated speaker setup, just in case your television’s soundstage isn’t large enough.
What’s interesting about that is that Google is renowned for locking down Android software. It doesn’t allow manufacturers to modify the software, unless they fall into a certain bracket. Google wants the user experience to be as simple, straightforward, and neutral as possible. Facebook, on the other hand, does not. It wants complete control over everything and the option to bundle its own features on its devices, and in order to do that, it has to work with the standard Android software, rather than adopt Android TV.
Strangely, Facebook is reportedly betting big on the Portal line’s AR capabilities, hoping that’s the main feature that will have the device flying off shelves.
There’s no word on when the latest addition to the Facebook Portal range is set to launch. However, it’s hard to imagine many people are waiting with anticipation.
According to Variety, Facebook has desperately tried to keep this latest device hidden from the media, revealing that the company once went to the extreme of creating a dedicated shell company, which operated under the name MCBP Technologies LLC, to disguise an earlier Portal product.
This is a developing story, so stay tuned for updates as things unfold.