Our habits, especially in the home are about to change. Or at least Facebook is betting on that. Facebook is joining Amazon, Google and Apple in a crowded battle for who can create the most convenient and indispensable home device. 

Facebook's new "Portal" will cost $499 and be available in the second half of this year. It's intended to build off of Amazon's Echo Show--which costs half the price and allows users to perform assistant tasks as well as chat via video on a small screen. 

Portal will be an audio/video device with a laptop sized screen that may ambitiously be intended to replace the family iPad. It will provide instant video calling to anyone in your Facebook feed, work with all streaming services, connect to apps and respond to voice commands. 

The price may be an issue.

Facebook may be willing to lower the price before launch date but reportedly Mark Zuckerberg isn't concerned if this device makes a profit or not. And that shouldn't sound crazy to you. 

The biggest theme to watch in 2018 will be products that don't need to make money in an obvious way. Amazon, Google and Apple haven't created home AI devices so you can have a better speaker in your kitchen. 

They want your data. Not in a bad way. Your microwave isn't trying to kill you. But every company in 2018 wants your data. That's how AI gets better. And as we shift further and further to audio search rather than click-based search it threatens the existing duopoly that exists for Google and Facebook. 

They can't afford to lose ground in search but they also know the landscape has changed. The new key to search--and the very lucrative advertising around it--is convenience via these home AI devices.

How data is changing competition.

Uber's new credit card isn't a play to get in the financial space. They want your restaurant data and they are willing to give you 4 percent cash back to get it. Why? So they can know what you like and create "ghost kitchens" for Uber Eats. Uber can create dozens of pop-up restaurants on the app to serve people using one commercial kitchen and a couple chefs. Cutting down on overhead it's a potential game-changer in 2018 and beyond. 

Target bought Meijer's grocery delivery service Shipt last month for $550 milllion. Shipt isn't intended to be profitable. Shipt users pay $100 a year to get their groceries and household items delivered. The goods are marked up slightly in some cases but after paying a driver $15 an hour to collect and deliver the items it's basically a break-even. 

So why so much interest in Shipt? Because it creates loyalty. Target is betting that you'll choose convenience first every time. And don't be surprised if Amazon, which now owns Whole Foods, eyes Target this year for acquisition. 

Original content is key if you want to compete.

If you run a startup--or are startup curious-- you may look at this data collection by industry giants and wonder how on earth you'll be able to compete. But every action has a reaction. When Apple launched the App Store it created room for Instagram and thousands of others to thrive. 

There's nothing stopping you right now from creating a ghost kitchen. And Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple are all trying to differentiate in the home market. They will need help in creating tools, widgets and items that help create an edge. Any good startup mentor will tell you to identify not where companies put their budget but where they are about to put their budget.

While people may talk about the booming industries of marijuana and medical wearables--and they are not wrong--original digital content may be just as big. Digital content is causing Silicon Valley, telecom and network television to blend. As that content goes further and further to mobile and other devices, Facebook, Amazon and more are making plays in original programming. Apple is investing $1 billion this year in original content. 

At the end of the day, the consumer may choose a home device or a wireless provider based on what original content it has access to and therein lies the opportunity as a startup. This war will be fought over content and exclusives, not bells and whistles. 

Go make that content. 

Published on: Jan 10, 2018