March is a month Mark Zuckerberg would surely like to forget. Trust in the Facebook platform is at an all time low following the Cambridge Analytica revelations and the collecting of call and SMS data from Android users. The company's share price is tumbling in response to this, and Facebook is reassessing what to do next.
According to Bloomberg, Facebook has decided to delay plans to introduce smart speaker products at its developer conference in May. The speakers are thought to be direct competitors to the Amazon Echo and Google Home, offering a mix of digital assistant and video chat dependent on the model chosen. Following the reveal in May, the speakers were expected to launch in the fall. That launch now seems in doubt if developers won't have access to them from May.
Delaying the introduction of smart speakers when consumers are questioning how much they can trust you and reassessing their privacy online makes sense. The smart home products category is becoming increasingly competitive and any new speaker needs to hit the ground running. Right now, a Facebook-branded smart speaker would probably flop and cost the social network a small fortune in unsold hardware.
On the flip side, delaying the launch for any significant amount of time will play into the hands of competitors who already have a healthy head start. If Facebook leaves it too much longer there won't be any point launching without these speakers have a killer feature. I fail to see what that would be beyond integrated access to the social network, which brings us right back to the trust and privacy concerns.
As for the developer conference in May, expect a new focus on privacy and data protection. Facebook needs to sort that out before attempting to do anything else new. Meanwhile, users can take advantage of new privacy tools being launched this week to help Facebook users better control their data.