Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, appears to be having a bonfire of hardware projects, if a handful of reports this week are to be believed.
First up was a report on Bloomberg that said a mysterious dual-camera smartwatch has been shelved.
Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising given that’s two more cameras than most smartwatches bother with, but the idea was that you could make video calls with a notch-based 5MP selfie camera, or pop the body from the strap and use the 12MP rear lens for better snaps instead. Any content could then be shared on Facebook and Instagram for that sweet, sweet dopamine hit of likes.
But the second camera apparently interfered with a sensor designed for “translating nerve signals from the wrists into digital commands”, and Meta is “instead working on other devices for the wrist.” Which is a pretty big sacrifice to make, given most people have a likely far better smartphone camera on them at all times.
Elsewhere, Meta has apparently decided to ditch the first generation of its augmented reality glasses, which were due for 2024. The Information claims that the company will use them for demos, and Meta will instead leap straight into releasing a second gen at a later date.
It’s a bold move, given you miss out on all the feedback and user data from the first generation (it’s not like Apple could have skipped the iPhone 3G and moved straight to the iPhone 13, afterall). But maybe Meta thinks it learned enough from the Ray-Ban experiment.
And speaking of underwhelming first-generation devices, Variety claims that Meta is abandoning hopes of Portal being a successful consumer device.
The smart screen was famously so internally popular that Facebook employees couldn’t resist leaving five-star reviews on Amazon. But that love wasn’t shared by consumers who didn’t really fancy having Facebook cameras in their houses given the company’s shaky reputation for respecting privacy.
The firm will apparently refocus Portal as a business thing, where people are presumably a lot more guarded about what they talk about in front of always-listening microphones. Well, you’d hope so anyway.
What draws all of these decisions together? Perhaps nothing, but Bloomberg points out that, in April, Meta warned that annual expenses would decrease by US$3 billion this year as part of a general slowdown.
It may well be that the company has decided the bread-and-butter of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are better bets for investment than gambling on an uncertain hardware future.