Samsung, playing a game of catch-up, said developers will soon be able to integrate their apps into Bixby, the company's personal assistant. Since launch, Bixby has failed to gain traction with users and it is far behind Amazon's Alexa, Google's Assistant, and even Apple's Siri. Will opening it to developers fix it?
Bixby started life as a digital voice assistant on Samsung's Galaxy S phones, meant to serve a similar role as Siri on iPhones. Samsung hoped people would use Bixby to dictate messages, open apps, and so on. Bixby's launch was a total disaster. The software arrived late, and once it did show up it hardly understood enough English to work properly. It was largely written off. Samsung later aggravated customers further when it installed a dedicated Bixby button on the Galaxy S9, S9+, and Note9 phones. The button cannot be remapped, and accidental presses launch Bixby whether users want it to or not. This has all led to a fairly high level of disdain for Bixby, at least in some circles.
Rather than give up, Samsung is doubling-down on the platform. The company knows it has to have an artificial intelligence-backed service of its own to compete with Amazon, Apple, and Google, and it appears that Bixby will be it.
Samsung is evolving Bixby into a "scalable intelligence platform" that will eventually be able to do more in a wider array of devices. To start, Samsung is expanding beyond Chinese, English, and Korean. In the coming months, Bixby will learn to speak U.K. English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. This is critical to expand the user base. Samsung hopes to push Bixby into its television sets, refigerators, and a host of other devices, like its Bixby Home smart speaker.
Samsung said the Bixby Developer Studio is what app writers will need to tap into Bixby skills from their own apps. The toolset offers "an intuitive way for developers and partners to infuse intelligence" into their products. The key is the Bixby Capsule, which is a set of features and services created for Bixby that's made available to consumers via the Bixby Marketplace. Developers will be able to adapt their capsules to phones, to TVs, and to other products across the Samsung ecosystem.
Samsung didn't go into too much detail surrounding specific APIs, but it appears as though the Bixby Developer Studio is available through Samsung's developer portal.
Developers will also be able to tinker with Samsung's redesigned SmartThings developer Workspace. This is Samsung's IoT ecosystem for the connected home. New tools include SmartThings Cloud Conector, Device Kit, and Hub Connector. These will allow developers to build apps for SmartThings products as well as Zigbee and Z-Wave devices. Samsung bolstered the Works with SmartThings certification program, which now includes direct access to Samsung's experts and other resources.
Samsung also showed off a folding display concept and a new user interface for its mobile devices. The folding phone and One UI are expected to reach consumers next year.