Bixby Will Be Seen but Not Heard When Galaxy S8 Launches

Samsung on Wednesday said that Bixby Voice will not be operational when its Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones hit the market.

Some Bixby features — Vision, Home and Reminder — will be active when the phones become available on April 21, Samsung said, but the Bixby Voice capability won’t show up until later this spring.

The delay may be due to a weakness in Bixby’s English language chops, according to some reports. Its voice recognition in English apparently lags its Korean language capabilities substantially. That mismatch might be worrisome to Samsung, as it could cast its new artificial intelligence assistant in a negative light.

It’s also possible that Samsung wants to round up more third-party apps to support Bixby Voice before it makes its debut.

Slow and Easy Wins the Race

Whatever the reason underlying it, Samsung’s decision to delay the feature likely is prudent.

“The S8 and S8+ are make-or-break products for Samsung to successfully rebound from BatteryGate,” said Cliff Raskind, a research director at Strategy Analytics.

The S8 “offers a lot of industry firsts. Everything, including Bixby, has to be perfect on this rollout,” he told TechNewsWorld. “A launch date slip for Bixby would, in the final analysis, be more palatable than a sub-par experience.”

Voice recognition requires an “immense orchestration” of software and services, said Ramon Llamas, a research manager at IDC.

Bixby “is generation one, was built from the ground up by Samsung, and doesn’t extend beyond its walls,” he told TechNewsWorld. “I’m OK with their giving it a pass until it’s ready for prime time instead of ending up with egg on their face.”

It’s important for Samsung to ensure that Bixby works correctly, noted Gerrit Schneemann, a senior analyst at IHS Markit.

Samsung is “already behind, and a sloppy launch would have a negative effect,” he told TechNewsWorld, but “a delayed start — not so much.”

However, “the longer Samsung delays in pushing out Bixby Voice, the more this will erode consumer confidence,” IDC’s Llamas cautioned. “The S8 runs on Android Nougat, which has Google Assistant built in as standard. Google Assistant does a lot of things very well.”

More Than a Voice

Bixby is a contextual service, not just a voice assistant, and “even if the Voice component isn’t there yet, Bixby can still learn about you with Bixby Home and Bixby Vision,” Llamas noted. “There’s value in that, because Bixby has to build up a library of experiences in order to make the contextual connections.”

Bixby “is very much a new wave of opportunity for Samsung,” observed Jeff Orr, a senior practice director at ABI Research.

“It’s not a point solution — having a certain set of features and functionality for a particular audience at a particular price point,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The concept underlying Bixby is to make intelligent machines learn and adapt to humans, instead of having humans learn how machines interact with the world, explained Samsung EVP InJong Rhee, when announcing the new service last month.

With Bixby, Samsung “is positioned in the interaction layer which is used to engage with other services,” noted IHS Markit’s Schneeman.

“If Samsung’s successful with its execution and broadens Bixby’s scope as announced, it’ll be an engagement tool for a broad range of devices, regardless of the operating system they run,” he added.

“This concept of Bixby being able to interact with the environment around you just using your voice is a powerful thing that other brands haven’t even begun to articulate,” ABI’s Orr pointed out. “It’s very bold and a major undertaking.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology. Email Richard.

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