The smart speakers Facebook is currently developing — the ones it reportedly decided not to show during the F8 developer conference — might launch in other countries first before debuting in the United States.
The reason? Privacy concerns following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where data from millions of accounts were taken without users' consent. Facebook knew it happened and didn't disclose the breach to users.
Facebook's Smart Speakers
The speakers comprise of a $499 device similar to the Echo Show, complete with a 15.6-inch touchscreen. Meanwhile, the smaller, cheaper model only has a speaker, similar to the regular Echo model. Rumors about these Facebook-branded speakers have circulated since August 2017, when Bloomberg first reported on the project.
The company withdrew the announcement presumably considering how the data scandal is still fresh in the minds of its users — introducing a product that collects even more data probably wouldn't have been a wise move.
An international rollout would help bypass some of that scrutiny in the United States while still allowing Facebook to catch up to Amazon and Google in the smart speaker space. Amazon is arguably the leader in this field, with years of a head start under its belt. Google is no slouch, though, consistently catching up with its very intelligent Assistant. Apple, meanwhile, isn't finding much success. Recent rumors say HomePod orders are being lowered following underwhelming sales.
M Smart Assistant
Similar to Samsung with its Bixby, Facebook is also planning to come up with its own digital assistant, rumored to be called "M," according to CNBC. M had already been incorporated into Facebook's Messenger platform before, it's worth noting. It powered a personal assistant chatbot but the company shut that down this past January.
Multiple sources at Facebook say it will now be developed into a voice assistant. M is a tentative name, though. One source says it could be called "Marvin."
Marvin will join Alexa, Assistant, Bixby, Siri, and Cortana in the growing space for intelligent voice assistants. For now, Alexa and Assistant unarguably rule the smart speaker and mobile platforms, respectively. Facebook has to hope it can compete with these heavyweights, but it's smart enough to know that releasing products that collect data, especially at a time of great public crisis, isn't going to help.