The smart speaker landscape is quickly congesting as the world’s biggest tech companies look to join the fray with Amazon and Google. The latest to enter, as reported by The Wall Street Journal early this morning, is Samsung, who is said to be working on a connected speaker powered by its Bixby virtual assistant.
Bixby was a big part of the Galaxy S8, an excellent phone that was a major rebound for the Korean electronics giant, but no part of the device’s success can be linked to the juvenile virtual assistant the company dedicated a hardware button to. Upon its release, Bixby offered little in the way of value and was mostly a vapid attempt by Samsung to join the assistant trend making a big push in 2017. Until last month, it wasn’t able to receive English voice commands and a full rollout of the update isn’t expected until the second half of July. Even with voice commands, the company still has a lot of work ahead to improve Bixby, as is evident in this preview of the service by The Verge.
The silver lining is that the company seems to understand the need to improve its assistant before it can push a smart speaker to market. WSJ reports the project, codenamed Vega, is in the earliest stages, with little known about the device other than its existence, and progress being held up by Bixby’s lack of significant improvement. Given its current state, the likelihood of Samsung getting a smart speaker on shelves anytime soon seems slim, and once the company does finally release the device, it will have to compete not only with entrenched names like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, but newcomers from Apple and Microsoft, as well.
Samsung has long had a history of being a “me too” company, jumping on bandwagons with borrowed ideas that offer little in the way of tangible use. Nothing has been more indicative of that notion than the Bixby virtual assistant. If the company wants to seriously compete in the smart speaker race, it needs to commit seriously to improving its virtual assistant.