Facebook plans to extend the range of options for video meetings using its Portal displays with the ability to download apps from video conferencing vendors including Zoom and Cisco.
The Portal video hardware was originally launched as a consumer device in 2018 with access to Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger apps before the company added support for Workplace - its enterprise collaboration platform - last year.
The display, which includes an AI-powered “smart camera” to track body movements of speakers during calls and “smart sound” control, can be used for one-to-one conversations between remote colleagues, as well as access to broadcasts via Workplace Live.
This week, Facebook detailed the range of options being added, including the ability to download video apps from several video conferencing vendors: Zoom, Cisco Webex, Verizon’s BlueJeans and GoToMeeting. That means video meetings with up to 1,000 users can be supported on the Portal - depending on the subscription level a user has - alongside access to whiteboard features via BlueJeans and Zoom.
The apps will be available beginning in September on Portal Mini, Portal and Portal+ devices, with Portal TV support arriving later.
Facebook also announced on that Workplace customers will soon be able to log in to Portal devices directly with their Workplace credentials. Previously, users were required to sign in with a Facebook or WhatsApp account before accessing the Workplace app. That new functionality will be available later this year.
Although Portal sales were rumoured to be low initially, the devices have apparently proved a hit during the pandemic - with demand increasing 10-fold in two months beginning in mid-March - as social distancing and remote work became the norm during the Covid-19 outbreak.
“The opportunity for additional hardware increases with the likelihood more people will continue to be working from home,” said Wayne Kurztman, a research director at IDC.
IDC’s research indicates that home workers already use an average of five different conferencing applications.
“Meeting the needs of ease of use, security, high quality audio and video, with support for multiple conferencing platform - at a good price point - sound like a winning combination,” said Kurtzman.
Meanwhile Zoom - which has seen its user figures skyrocket during the pandemic - also announced partnerships with other smart display vendors partnerships with other smart display vendors on Wednesday. Zoom will be made available on Amazon’s Echo “later this year” in the U.S., alongside Google’s video hardware including the Nest Hub Max “by the end of the year.”