As Samsung get closer to its self-imposed 2020 deadline for having ALL of its devices use Bixby’s AI, the company is working hard to enlist the help of developers during its Samsung Developer Conference (SDC) in San Francisco.
Eui-Suk Chung, Samsung executive vice president and head of software and AI, was on-stage to remind developers that Samsung is committed to an open Bixby ecosystem.
Samsung will invest $22B in addition to creating seven AI development centers around the world and hiring an additional 1000 AI experts. He also announced the Bixby Marketplace, without elaborating further, for now – but that’s key because it’s how revenues will flow back to developers.
Some of the development tools are created by Viv Labs, which was acquired by Samsung for about $215M in February 2017. Viv Labs CEO Dag Kittlaus demonstrated new tools, the same ones that the company is using internally he says, and confirmed that these would be made available to all developers.
“No tradeoffs,” “You will be using the exact same tools we use,” “you will have full access to every deep set of functionality we use to build Bixby today,” said Dag Kittlaus. This is important to developers because not having the same tools and feature set could be a considerable disadvantage as Samsung itself is a developer.
Also, less energy could be spent by Samsung to create and maintain multiple APIs and tools. In both instances, Samsung’s message to developers is that they’re all in it together.
Samsung’s SDK (software development kit) will also help developers by generating boiler-plate code that can handle a broad range of known use cases. The demonstration showed how it was possible to quickly build a room reservation system and test it within the Samsung integrated development environment (IDE). Ideally, the time saved by developers can be reallocated to more valuable code.
It’s too early to know if developers will embrace Samsung’s proposition, but the reaction on the ground seemed very positive. In the end, the real metric for success is the number of successful/useful apps build for Bixby.
For Samsung, creating a healthy ecosystem around Bixby is extremely important because it could open the door to new revenue streams as the Bixby interface could open new opportunities with search, shopping, music and much more if executed successfully.
From a smartphone perspective, Samsung also needs a compelling ecosystem to fend off device makers who don’t need to make money on the hardware, such as Xiaomi, which makes money on the web services it offers. At the same time, Samsung Mobile needs to content with OEMs who don’t mind thin margins such as Oppo/OnePlus or those who will not hold back on component prices such as Huawei.
Although the smart assistant market has been buzzing rather intensely within the industry, less than 5% of the U.S population has interacted with Bixby, which places Samsung behind Apple, Google or Amazon.
Samsung is counting on the Galaxy Home smart speaker to gain share. Revealed during the Galaxy Note 9 event, this smart speaker boasts a superb design and potentially much higher sound quality than its competitors. We’ll just have to wait and see when we can take it for a spin to confirm.
One thing is sure: from Samsung’s point of view, any Samsung device could be a Bixby device, and given the number of electronics the company ships yearly, there is a tremendous untapped opportunity to gain share, and developers are an essential piece of the puzzle.