Samsung’s Bixby-enabled smart speaker is coming in the second half of this year. At Mobile World Congress, DJ Koh, President of Samsung’s mobile division confirmed that the much rumored Bixby speaker will be launched in the second half of 2018.
The smart speaker segment is currently led by Amazon and Google, and has suddenly caught attention among consumers as evident by the increase in sales of Google Home speakers during the holiday season. The rise in their popularity has led to more companies entering the segment. Apple recently launched its HomePod with Siri built-in, while Microsoft has partnered Harmon Kardon to launch Invoke speaker with Cortana built-in. Samsung, the largest consumer electronics brand globally, doesn’t want to stay behind.
Samsung announced Bixby as its rival to Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Siri alongside Galaxy S8 launch in March last year. The assistant is the replacement to Samsung’s S Voice, and comes integrated with technologies developed by Viv Labs, the team which was part of original Siri team. The Bixby assistant is currently available on Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, Galaxy Note 8 and the newly launched Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ smartphones. It is also available on Samsung’s lower end and mid-range devices, but does not support voice interaction.
Samsung first confirmed that it is working on a Bixby-based smart speaker after the launch of Galaxy Note 8 in August last year. The rumors from December last year claimed that the speaker will arrive sometime in the first half of 2018, and will be priced around $200. The confirmation from Koh at MWC suggests the launch date has been delayed to the second half of the year.
We still don’t know a lot about Samsung’s Bixby speaker, and there is no detail on how it will look and where it will have a display or be a standalone speaker. The launch of Bixby-enabled speaker is seen as a way for Samsung to tie its digital assistant with SmartThings smart home ecosystem. The speaker is seen as a central hub for controlling SmartThings devices in addition to acting as music player and assistant to alert about weather, traffic update, calendar events, and more.
The design and development of the smart speaker is believed to be handled by Harman, which Samsung acquired in March last year. “I want to focus on more premium,” Koh told WSJ about the speaker. It indicates Samsung will compete with HomePod, Google Home Max and Echo Show rather than Echo Dot and Google Home Mini.
With Bixby 2.0, Samsung has opened its assistant to developers, and has added greater support for integration with third-party apps. The success of Alexa and Amazon’s Echo range of speakers is mainly because of the number of third party apps (or skills) available on the platform and Samsung needs to get it right in order to even hope to make a dent in the space.