- Samsung Electronics Co. is working on a voice-activated speaker powered by its digital assistant Bixby, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the matter. The release date for the product isn't yet determined, as the English-language version of Bixby has been delayed. The voice features were a key selling point for Samsung's flagship Galaxy S8 introduced in April.
- The South Korean tech giant would be entering a market that Amazon, Google and Microsoft are seeking to develop with smart speakers as the hub of internet-connected homes. Apple is set to release its Siri-powered HomePod in December, while Alibaba plans to introduce a voice-activated device for Chinese consumers.
- The Bixby-powered speaker is internally-named "Vega" within Samsung, according to the International Business Times, and has its roots in earlier efforts by the company. Samsung had planned to introduce the "Hive" device in March 2015 at the Mobile World Congress in Spain, but it was quietly withdrawn because of difficulties with voice recognition.
Samsung has faced a series of difficulties in getting its Bixby voice-activated assistant ready for a broader market, which is critical if the company wants to develop a smart speaker that could interact with its growing arsenal of internet-connected appliances. Bixby is available in South Korea, while the English language version is being tested in an "early access" program with tens of thousands of U.S. consumers.
The number of Americans who use a voice-activated assistant device like Amazon Echo or Google Home at least once a month will more than double this year to 35.6 million, eMarketer estimates. The market leader will be Amazon with 71% of users while Google will have 24%. EMarketer estimates that Amazon will maintain its market leader position even as Google Home grabs greater market share. The key for Samsung will be to provide an insurmountable mix of content and functionality that has a greater value proposition — or more compelling unique features — than its competitors.
In many ways, Samsung is well positioned to create a seamless connected home, given that the company makes a wide variety of appliances including TVs, refrigerators, air conditioners, dishwashers and mobile phones that could connect with and be voice-controlled via the smart speaker. Developing an intelligent assistant that interacts with an entire household of connected devices is a major undertaking. If Samsung succeeds at providing a more integrated experience than its competitors, this could also potentially spur sales for its mobile devices and home appliances.