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Facebook Enters Video Chat Hardware Market With New Portal

Hot on the heels of Google and Amazon, Facebook is entering the hardware video business with a new video ‘Portal’ device.

And for before you get concerned about Facebook security Facebook has said that the built-in camera is only there to frame the shot correctly, so users can move around hands-free during video chats.

Executives claim that the microphone and camera can also be turned off, and there’s no way to record video.

Bloomberg described Facebook as a software company famous for pushing out products quickly and adjusting later depending on the level of uproar.

“Privacy is very, very, very important,” said Rafa Camargo, vice president of Portal. “We really made a conscious choice of not recording, so you have peace of mind.” If users don’t trust the “off” switch for the camera, there’s a small plastic cover they can slide over the lens when it’s not in use.

At this stage it’s not known whether JB Hi Fi, The Good Guys or Harvey Norman will sell the device which Facebook planned intended to introduce them in May but delayed the launch over concern about the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal.

Facebook has now added a plastic cover users can slide over the lens.

The connected speakers with video cameras and touchscreens are called the Portal and Portal+. The devices have identical functionality — the ability to handle video chats, listen to music, view photos, and watch video from a limited array of applications — but are differentiated by things like screen size and sound quality.

Also competing against Facebook in this market is Harman with their new JBL Link View as well as new video-based products from Amazon and Google.

The smaller Portal, which looks similar to Amazon.com Inc.’s Echo Show, has a 10-inch screen that sits horizontally. The Portal+ has a 15-inch screen on a stand that turns to show the display in either portrait or horizontal mode. Pricing in Australia is tipped to be $299 for the small model and $499 for the 15″ model.

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