Facebook is working on an Apple TV rival, apparently. According to Variety, the device will slot into the brand's peculiar Portal range of hardware and will feature a camera for video-calling and far-field microphones for detecting audio, because in Facebook's mind there's a massive market for people wanting to place a video call and create a Facebook Story (it's even working on some Apple Animoji-esque AI features that will let you plaster a virtual mask over your face) from their television.
Samsung tried something similar when it bundled a pop-up camera on its Smart TVs, but decided to remove them after it emerged that the hardware could be hacked.
Considering Facebook's tarnished reputation in the privacy space (cough, Cambridge Analytica, cough), we can't imagine there being too many people who want to slap a what's essentially a portal (pun intended) for Facebook to both watch and eavesdrop on their family in the middle of their living room. It's all a bit strange, if you ask us.
Designed to take on the likes of the Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV, the upcoming Facebook Portal model will have heaps of streaming services on board. In fact, Facebook is said to be in talks with many of the top dogs, including Disney and Netflix, to convince them to develop exclusive features for the new hardware — hinting that the device will run a modified build of Google's Android mobile software, versus its purpose-built Android TV OS that will be on the forthcoming OnePlus TV.
Strangely, Facebook has gone to extreme lengths to keep the device a secret, reports Variety. While the publication didn't detail exactly what it's been doing, it did note that in the past the firm went to the extreme of creating a dedicated shell company, which traded under the name MCBP Technologies LLC, to disguise an earlier Portal product. Chances are, it's done something similar this time around. However, just why it would want to do that is unclear — leaks fuel anticipation for a new product.
It's almost like the social-behemoth-turned-manufacturer knows the hardware won't be able to rival the high-end user experience that comes part and parcel with the Apple TV 4K, or provide the same value for money as the Google Chromecast.