Facebook is Working on a New Operating System to Support a Voice Assistant

Facebook is working on creating an operating system to end its reliance on Google’s Android operating system, according to a report from The Information. The new OS would likely provide the foundation for the voice assistant Facebook previously confirmed it is working on developing.

Operating for Facebook

At the moment Facebook’s Portal smart displays and Oculus VR headsets use a version of Android as their operating system. The new operating system would be used on current and future Facebook devices, including updated Portal displays, new Oculus VR systems, and upcoming wearables like the smart glasses Facebook is reportedly building in a partnership with Ray-Ban.

Changing to its own operating system would also provide a home for the voice assistant that Facebook has been developing. The Portal and Portal+ smart displays offer rudimentary voice control for video chat and accessing Facebook, as well as an interface with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Android phones, meanwhile, use Google Assistant to access Facebook’s family of mobile apps. As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in May, voice technology is very important to the future of the company and would be a crucial part of several devices the company would like to build. The new voice assistant has been in the works since early 2018 after Facebook ended M, the Facebook Messenger digital assistant.

Control of the Ecosystem

Facebook last attempted to build its own operating system for smartphones in 2013, but the HTC phone with the prototype never took off. That Facebook would go back to the well and try to build another operating system in tandem with a voice assistant makes sense though. The company is working on the actual chipsets underlying the operating system at the same time, with all of the potential benefits of controlling the hardware and software that Apple gets from making the iPhone and iOS both. Facebook and the other apps it builds could all be pre-installed and applied to the phone’s calling and messaging defaults, along with supplanting Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant with its own voice assistant.

Running an operating system would also give Facebook new options when dealing with Google and Apple as their respective operating systems act as middlemen for Facebook’s apps. Considering that Facebook’s success comes from collecting user data to manage their experience, having an operating system and voice assistant is logical. Facebook doesn’t want to rely on Amazon to make Portal attractive to customers or on Google Play to feature its next round of apps. That element becomes especially important as Facebook works to add new devices to its roster. As the amount spent on wearable technology is expected to rise rapidly in the coming year, Facebook is keen to have as much power over the shape of the evolving market as possible.


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