Facebook built Portal for friends to connect, but it has more to offer businesses

Are you ready for Facebook to have a physical, semi-permanent presence in your home? That's the central question you'll need to consider before you invest in the company's new Portal or Portal+ speaker.

The pair of speakers, Facebook's first non-VR hardware product, come at a time when trust in the social network is at an all-time low. The company is reeling from scandal after scandal, and is still facing tough questions about users' privacy.

While the Portal and Portal+ are often compared to Amazon's Echo Show, Facebook's devices are actually much more limited. Yes, you can use Alexa skills, but there are very few third-party apps available for the Portal right now. There's Pandora, Spotify, and iHeartRadio for music, as well as YouTube, Food Network, and Facebook Watch for video.

But Portal is first and foremost a video-calling tool. Yes, it can technically do a bit more than that — you can add your Amazon account to use Alexa skills and perhaps future functionality —  but if you're not planning on spending a lot of time video chatting, there's no point in getting one.

The case for having a Portal in the office

One use case where I do think Portal actually makes a lot of sense — and one Facebook hasn't talked about very much — is not as an in-home video calling gadget, but as a corporate video conferencing tool. 

Think about it: corporate video conferencing systems tend to suck. They're expensive and bug-ridden and never quite work the way you need them to. And Facebook already has relationships with thousands of companies, thanks to Workplace.