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Facebook to launch smart speakers in July

Aloha and Fiona models are designed by social media giant’s Building 8 hardware lab

Gulf News


Facebook is set to officially foray into the global smart speaker market in the middle of this year by launching two new models, code-named Aloha and Fiona, Taiwan-based website, Digitimes, reported by quoting industry sources.

The sources said that the Facebook move is expected to further heat up the global smart speaker market, which has been crowded with heavyweight players, including top supplier Amazon and other tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Apple and many China players including Alibaba. According to estimates by market researcher Canalys, the global market sales of smart speakers are likely to double to over 50 million units in 2018 from 2017.

The smart speakers — both with 15-inch touchscreens panels reportedly to be sourced from LG Display — in July at the latest, with the devices positioned as a way to allow family and friends to stay in touch with video chat and various social features, according to sources.

Supply chain sources said that Facebook was originally slated to release the devices in May, but has decided to reschedule the launch to allow more time for perfecting the acoustic quality of the gadgets and software modification.

The Aloha model is more sophisticated than Fiona, both designed by Facebook’s Building 8 hardware lab. The Aloha model, to be marketed under the official name Portal, will use voice commands but will also feature facial recognition to identify users for accessing Facebook via a wide-angle lens on the front of the device.

The Portal device will come with more social networking functions, and Facebook has signed music licensing contracts with Sony and Universal Music to enrich the device’s applications, the sources indicated.

Market watchers opined that the laptop-sized high-resolution touchscreen and smart camera technology will be the most crucial features of Facebook’s smart speakers to rival Amazon’s best-selling device Echo Show, which is fitted with a 7-inch screen.

Facebook is planning to build its own ecosystem for video consumer devices in the next five years, and the smart speaker is just the initial-stage product, with more terminal devices expected to be rolled out in the coming years, industry sources said.