Yesterday, Samsung surprised with the pre-announcement of their Bixby-enabled Smart Speaker, the Galaxy Home. No details on shipment dates or pricing, so Samsung are doing what Apple HomePod did last year: a pre-announcement of coming attractions. In hindsight, the HomePod strategy pretty much bombed, not only because of the high price tag and lack of features (stereo!), but because it was already facing strong incumbents in Amazon Echo and Google Home devices.
Does Apple’s late entry in smart speakers mean that Galaxy Home is equally doomed?
Hang on, not so fast…
Samsung’s device portfolio goes beyond mobile devices and deep into home appliances and automotive platforms (Harman acquisition). The strategic role of Bixby is to tie together disparate Samsung product lines into a common brand experience. And internally, Bixby is designed to connect their disparate groups (better known as “silos”!). Bixby is the unifying element for a “One Samsung” strategy.
Bixby is also meant to be the unifier across their vendor ecosystem. I fully expect Samsung to make SDKs and partnership opportunities available to integrators who want to incorporate Bixby as a voice UI. Think Amazon’s successful AVS (Alexa Voice Services) strategy that allows hardware vendors (from GE’s lighting fixtures to Kohler’s bathroom mirror) to integrate Alexa using a software SDK and hardware reference designs. Apple’s Siri doesn’t have that open ecosystem opportunity to proliferate. Samsung, though late to market, still has that opportunity to grow Bixby, where Siri can only rely on Apple devices.
Samsung simply cannot afford to miss this Bixby opportunity. With SmartThings, they developed a good track record in open ecosystems. But on Bixby thus far, they have failed to deliver. Positioning Bixby as a “Voice Agent” at first (one that simply manages Galaxy phones’ features) was a sad excuse and only worked for so long. The pressure on Bixby 2.0 is incredibly high. But if Bixby can deliver, Samsung can still catch up.
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