Power

Facebook adds Zoom and other video calling apps to its Portal smart display

Portals may soon get sold to enterprise customers in bulk.

Zoom app on Facebook's Portal smart display

Facebook's Portal smart display will soon be able to run Zoom group calls.

Photo: Courtesy of Facebook

Facebook is turning Portal into a Trojan horse for the enterprise: The smart display is getting native apps for Zoom, Webex, BlueJeans and GoToMeeting starting next month, the social media giant announced Wednesday. This will allow Portal owners to use the device for their video calls while working from home. It also sets Facebook up to sell to the enterprise and compete more directly with companies like Logitech once offices open back up.

Native support for third-party video calling apps includes Portal features like object tracking that keeps callers in frame even when they move throughout the room, and noise cancellation via the device's far-field microphones. Consumers who want to use Portal for work without connecting it to their private social media accounts can now also log in with their Facebook Workplace accounts, and both Workplace as well as third-party apps like Zoom and GoToMeeting will support access controls via PIN to make sure toddlers don't inadvertently dial into company meetings.

Then again, having your kids on camera isn't all that uncommon these days. "It's been an unprecedented year," admitted Facebook Portal Director of Product Management Micah Collins during a conversation with Protocol this week. "We are meeting a market that has gone through a crash course in video calling."

A market, one might add, that's also desperately looking to improve the quality of video calls during shelter-in-place, with webcams having been sold out everywhere for months. By positioning the device as a better way to Zoom from home, Facebook could fill a significant gap in the market, and a starting price of $129 could further boost Portal sales.

That's a notable change in fortune for the device, which was widely panned at launch just two years ago. Back then, Facebook was still struggling with the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and the idea to put Facebook-made hardware with a camera into one's home seemed like a bad joke to many people. It didn't exactly help that the first-generation Portals, including Portal+ with its massive 15.6-inch swivel screen, looked pretty clunky.

Fast forward to the pandemic summer of 2020, and that huge screen suddenly seems like a good idea. "This screen size is actually magical," said Collins, who was using a Portal+ for our video call.

Going forward, Facebook wants to figure out what else a dedicated second screen on your desk could do, and how Portal can be smarter about the room and context it is placed in. A smart display in our kitchen may fulfill very different needs than one in your home office, Collins said. "We are very bullish on exploring different screen sizes and different surfaces around the home."

Facebook also wants to figure out how to best adapt Portal for use in offices and is looking to add dedicated tech support for corporate customers. The company has yet to announce specifics about its plans to bring Portal to the enterprise, but Collins suggested that it may offer bulk purchase options and more in the coming months. Adding video calling was very much a first step, he said: "We see bringing these partners on board as critical."

Protocol | Policy

5 things to know about FCC nominee Gigi Sohn

The veteran of some of the earliest tech policy fights is a longtime consumer champion and net-neutrality advocate.

Gigi Sohn, who President Joe Biden nominated to serve on the FCC, is a longtime net-neutrality advocate.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated Gigi Sohn to serve as a Federal Communications Commissioner, teeing up a Democratic majority at the agency that oversees broadband issues after months of delay.

Like Lina Khan, who Biden picked in June to head up the Federal Trade Commission, Sohn is a progressive favorite. And if confirmed, she'll take up a position in an agency trying to pull policy levers on net neutrality, privacy and broadband access even as Congress is stalled.

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Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

If you've ever tried to pick up a new fitness routine like running, chances are you may have fallen into the "motivation vs. habit" trap once or twice. You go for a run when the sun is shining, only to quickly fall off the wagon when the weather turns sour.

Similarly, for many businesses, 2020 acted as the storm cloud that disrupted their plans for innovation. With leaders busy grappling with the pandemic, innovation frequently got pushed to the backburner. In fact, according to McKinsey, the majority of organizations shifted their focus mainly to maintaining business continuity throughout the pandemic.

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Protocol | Workplace

Adobe wants a more authentic NFT world

Adobe's Content Credentials feature will allow Creative Cloud subscribers to attach edit-tracking information to Photoshop files. The goal is to create a more trustworthy NFT market and digital landscape.

Adobe's Content Credentials will allow users to attach their identities to an image

Image: Adobe

Remember the viral, fake photo of Kurt Cobain and Biggie Smalls that duped and delighted the internet in 2017? Doctored images manipulate people and erode trust and we're not great at spotting them. The entire point of the emerging NFT art market is to create valuable and scarce digital files and when there isn't an easy way to check for an image's origin and edits, there's a problem. What if someone steals an NFT creator's image and pawns it off as their own? As a hub for all kinds of multimedia, Adobe feels a responsibility to combat misinformation and provide a safe space for NFT creators. That's why it's rolling out Content Credentials, a record that can be attached to a Photoshop file of a creator's identity and includes any edits they made.

Users can connect their social media addresses and crypto wallet addresses to images in Photoshop. This further proves the image creator's identity, but it's also helpful in determining the creators of NFTs. Adobe has partnered with NFT marketplaces KnownOrigin, OpenSea, Rarible and SuperRare in this effort. "Today there's not a way to know that the NFT you're buying was actually created by a true creator," said Adobe General Counsel Dana Rao. "We're allowing the creator to show their identity and attach it to the image."

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Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Protocol | China

Why another Chinese lesbian dating app just shut down

With neither political support nor a profitable business model, lesbian dating apps are finding it hard to survive in China.

Operating a dating app for LGBTQ+ communities in China is like walking a tightrope.

Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

When Lesdo, a Chinese dating app designed for lesbian women, announced it was closing down, it didn't come as a surprise to the LGBTQ+ community.

It's unclear what directly caused this decision. 2021 hasn't been kind to China's queer communities; WeChat has deactivated queer groups' public accounts and Beijing has pressured charity organizations not to work with queer activists.

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Zeyi Yang
Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.

The Oura Ring was a sleep-tracking hit. Can the next one be even more?

Oura wants to be a media company, an activity tracker and even a way to know you're sick before you feel sick.

Over the last few years, the Oura Ring has become one of the most recognizable wearables this side of the Apple Watch.

Photo: Oura

Oura CEO Harpreet Rai swears he didn't know Kim Kardashian was a fan. He was as surprised as anyone when she started posting screenshots from the Oura app to her Instagram story, and got into a sleep battle with fellow Oura user Gwyneth Paltrow. Or when Jennifer Aniston revealed that Jimmy Kimmel got her hooked on Oura … and how her ring fell off in a salad. "I am addicted to it," Aniston said, "and it's ruining my life" by shaming her about her lack of sleep. "I think we're definitely seeing traction outside of tech," Rai said. "Which is cool."

Over the last couple of years, Oura's ring (imaginatively named the Oura Ring) has become one of the most recognizable wearables this side of the Apple Watch. The company started with a Kickstarter campaign in 2015, but really started to find traction with its second-generation model in 2018. It's not exactly a mainstream device — Oura said it has sold more than 500,000 rings, up from 150,000 in March 2020 but still not exactly Apple Watch levels — but it has reached some of the most successful, influential and probably sleep-deprived people in the industry. Jack Dorsey is a professed fan, as is Marc Benioff.

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David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

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