The digital assistant Bixby gets a makeover with its 2.0 release, as Samsung aims to create its own ecosystem. Should developers consider investing in yet another connected IoT platform?
When Samsung launched its Bixby digital assistant with the Galaxy S8, some basic features were missing, and they were slow to arrive. On top of that, Bixby was installed alongside the well-established Google Assistant, prompting questions as to whether it was really necessary to add another digital assistant to an already crowded market.
Samsung may have realized Bixby's shortcomings as a digital assistant, but with Bixby 2.0 the Korean tech giant is hardly backing down. Bixby 2.0 is the lead element of Samsung's bid to build its own ecosystem of connected devices and services.
The new Bixby strategy is vastly different from what came before it, which is why we've chosen to publish this article to accompany our original Bixby cheat sheet, which focuses more on its digital assistant features. This Bixby 2.0 cheat sheet is a quick introduction to the latest version of Samsung's digital assistant and its new ecosystem. This guide will be updated periodically as Bixby continues to evolve with Samsung's IoT strategy.
SEE: Hiring kit: IoT developer (Tech Pro Research)
- What is Bixby 2.0? Bixby 2.0 is the latest version of Samsung's digital assistant. The new version will focus more on Samsung's IoT and connected tech strategy, as evidenced by the announcement of the new Galaxy Home Bixby-powered smart speaker.
- Why does Bixby 2.0 matter? Samsung is aiming to create an ecosystem like the one powered by Amazon Alexa. Whether it will be able to compete remains to be seen, but Samsung's wide range of appliances and products will give it an early advantage.
- Who does Bixby 2.0 affect? Bixby 2.0 will affect Samsung customers as well as developers who want to integrate their products with the Bixby ecosystem. Samsung has opened the Bixby platform to developers with the release of the Bixby SDK, which means it will likely affect hardware manufacturers considering which ecosystems to integrate with as well.
- When will Bixby 2.0 be released? Bixby 2.0 is available on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, and will be included in the Galaxy 10 series when it launches in April 2019. The Bixby 2.0 SDK can be downloaded and installed on both Windows and macOS devices now.
What is Bixby 2.0?
Whereas Bixby's first incarnation was as a digital assistant for the Galaxy S8 series of Samsung smartphones, Bixby 2.0 is designed to be part of a full Samsung smart device ecosystem.
A blog post by Samsung executive vice president for R&D Eui-Suk Chung outlined the vision the company has for Bixby 2.0 as "the control hub of your device ecosystem, including mobile phones, TVs, refrigerators, home speakers, or any other connected technology you can imagine."
SEE: Special report: Harnessing IoT in the enterprise (free PDF)
With that in mind, Samsung plans to add Bixby integration to all of the smart products it produces, and then some. Going hand-in-hand with Bixby 2.0 and Samsung's lineup of connected devices is Project Ambience, which uses a dongle that plugs into third-party devices to make them connect to the Bixby ecosystem.
Samsung's newest endeavor seems to be moving tech into what it calls the "intelligence of things era," and it sees Bixby 2.0 as the primary interface in that era. As evidence for Bixby's shift from just being a digital assistant to powering a smart device interface, Samsung announced the Galaxy Home, an Amazon Echo-like smart speaker that is powered by Bixby and will be available in April 2019.
According to statements given to CNBC by DJ Koh, CEO of Samsung's mobile unit, the Galaxy Home's release will be tied tightly to the release of an SDK and an API for Bixby. Samsung's goal, Koh said, is to turn Bixby into an open ecosystem featuring lots of third-party apps.
- Samsung announces Bixby, new AI assistant for Galaxy S8 (TechRepublic)
- Samsung launches Bixby 2.0 everywhere plan, consolidates IoT efforts: Will developers bite? (ZDNet)
- Samsung's Bixby, now even smarter, arrives on fridges (CNET)
- Hands-on with Samsung Bixby Voice beta: 3,000 reasons to finally use the button (ZDNet)
Why does Bixby 2.0 matter?
Make no mistake: Samsung's AI-driven, connected focus for Bixby 2.0 is putting it in direct competition with Amazon's Alexa, which is the dominate force in IoT connectivity in the market today.
Considering the huge share of the market that Alexa has, it's easy to look at a face-to-face competition between Amazon and Samsung for AI-driven smart home products as one-sided in Amazon's favor. However, that doesn't acknowledge the large array of internet-connected devices that Samsung already produces, and the others that will benefit from Bixby integration.
Add to that the fact that Samsung recently announced plans to make Bixby 2.0's software open to third-party developers and there's a good chance Samsung may finally be in competition for Amazon's control of the smart home market.
Bixby still has an uphill climb to make it a contender for smart home hub dominance, but it's entirely possible that Samsung will be able to close the gap with Amazon, not to mention with Google and Apple, by sheer virtue of its hardware offerings and projects like Ambience.
As TechRepublic sister site ZDNet noted, Bixby only had around 4% of the digital assistant market in late 2018, but analyst predictions may be in Samsung's favor, as they predict that smart TVs will be the fastest growing segment of devices that have digital assistants.
Samsung's smart TVs already contain Bixby, and the company plans to add its digital assistant to all its home appliances by 2020.
- Why businesses are lining up behind Amazon Alexa in the virtual assistant race (TechRepublic)
- Video: Why Amazon's Alexa is the next big operating system (TechRepublic)
- Galaxy S8 Bixby assistant will be expanded to all Samsung devices (ZDNet)
- Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google Assistant are just the beginning: Voice is the future (ZDNet)
- Alexa builds a growing army to invade the digital home (ZDNet)
- IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)
Who does Bixby 2.0 affect?
Bixby 2.0 is available, but it has yet to affect all Samsung customers. As of now Bixby 2.0 is only available on the Galaxy Note 9, S9 series, S10 series, and Galaxy Fold, with other devices still running some version of 1.0.
Samsung announced plans for Bixby 2.0 at its November 2018 developers conference that paint a clear picture of the company's plans for Bixby, which it sees as growing far beyond being reserved for smartphones.
Included in the announcement was news that Samsung is opening Bixby up to developers with the release of the Bixby Developer Studio, and that language support for British English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish would be coming within the next few months. TechRepublic sister site CNET quoted one analyst as saying that the recent announcements show Samsung's plan to actually turn Bixby into a full-fledged platform instead of just a product feature.
SEE: Samsung Galaxy Fold: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
As more Bixby 1.0 devices are phased out of service in favor of newer Bixby 2.0 devices, Bixby will affect not only Samsung ecosystem users but also anyone considering smart home or smart office products. It will be one more ecosystem to consider when deciding between Amazon and Google.
That's not to mention developers and third-party manufacturers, who have the opportunity to add Bixby support and integration using the SDK, which is now available. It remains to be seen how easily Bixby will work alongside other ecosystems like Alexa, meaning it's unknown if devs and manufacturers will have the luxury of adding support for multiple ecosystems, or if they will be forced to go the Bixby-only route.
- Galaxy S10 Plus ongoing review: What's good and bad so far (CNET)
- Galaxy Fold: I want the specs, but no clue what to do with a $1,980 foldable phone (ZDNet)
- Photos: First look at the Samsung Galaxy S10 smartphone line (TechRepublic)
- Samsung's S Pen is fantastic, but Bixby is another good reason to buy the Galaxy Note 9 (ZDNet)
- AI assistants will outnumber all people on Earth by 2021, report says (TechRepublic)
- The future will be voice-operated but digital assistants need to learn apps (ZDNet)
- Who needs a screen? AI shaping future of computing with digital assistants (ZDNet)
When will Bixby 2.0 be available in more products?
Bixby 2.0 is available on the Galaxy Note 9, and on S9 and S9+ devices that have installed the OneUI update. Samsung's February 2019 Galaxy S10 Unpacked event revealed that Bixby 2.0 will also be available on the Galaxy S10 line of devices and the Galaxy Fold.
The Galaxy Home, Samsung's long awaited Bixby-powered smart speaker, has been given an April 2019 release window, so Samsung users looking to take advantage of Bixby 2.0's many smart home features will finally be able to start doing so.
The Bixby 2.0 SDK is available, and Samsung is now allowing developers to build Bixby Capsules, which function like Echo Skills, for release in the Bixby Marketplace when it launches in 2019.
In terms of regional availability, Bixby 2.0 had previously been limited to only US English, Korean, and Mandarin; Samsung has announced that support for Spanish, Italian, German, and British English will be coming with the release of the Galaxy S10 series.
- What Samsung's foldable phone could mean for work and productivity (TechRepublic)
- Samsung Galaxy Fold, S10, S10 Plus and S10e: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
- Samsung adds option to disable Bixby button on Galaxy smartphones (ZDNet)
- The complete business user's guide to Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 (TechRepublic)
- 15 handy Samsung Bixby tricks you need to know (CNET)
- Samsung unlocks Bixby voice assistant for 200 more countries (CNET)
- Check out CNET's Smart Home coverage (CNET)