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Data scandal set to stall Facebook’s assault on the smart home

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Facebook’s data privacy scandal is heading into the second week and it doesn’t look like it’s going to calm down, so much so the team has reportedly decided against unveiling its smart home products in May.

Sources close to Bloomberg claim the social media giant is going to push back the launch of a new range of smart home products as it weathers the privacy storm. The launch was supposed to take place in May, during the company’s developer conference, but will now likely take place towards the end of the year.

Google and Amazon have both shown that the public is open to the idea of smart assistants, even considering the intrusive nature of the devices. Despite already being late to the party, Facebook might have to hold off in this space; launching a product line which is reliant on consumer trust might not be the most sensible idea as its privacy-practises are being scrutinised and criticised. Surely not even Facebook is bold enough to ask for more personal information from the user when it is standing in the eye of the storm.

Interestingly enough, should Facebook enter the world of smart assistants, it might prove to be a hit. The frustrations of many virtual assistants nowadays is that they are not living up to the personalisation promise, but when you ponder the vaults of information Facebook has on you already, it might prove to be the most adaptable and successful assistant. This might be considered throwing fuel on the fire however…

This report is based on the launch of hardware, not specifically a smart assistant, but we have wondered for some months when Facebook was going to get involved in the smart home battle. It is a software business, and a highly successful one, which has (or at least used to have) the trust of the consumer and has been working on personalisation initiatives for some time. It is a recipe which says the smart assistant market would be an opportunity ready for the taking.

The problem which Facebook faces now is the go-to-market strategy. Being late to the party isn’t necessarily the worst idea in the world, there are numerous examples of when the initial innovator gets usurped by a company who just does it better, but you have to wonder when late becomes too late. In the past when latecomers take over the segment, the incumbents had failed to develop solid foundations in terms of customer loyalty and brand credibility. The longer Facebook leaves it to get involved in the smart home space, the more securely Amazon and Google are entrenching themselves in the lives of consumers.

For the moment it is a very sensible idea to back off. Releasing a smart home product in during this period of criticism would essentially be a slap in the face of the consumer, but Facebook needs to turn this public perception around very quickly. The smart home segment is advancing fast, and Facebook might miss the boat if it doesn’t buy a ticket soon.

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