Software

Samsung Bixby 2.0: Cheat sheet

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 smart person's guide, 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)

Executive summary

  • 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 publicly available, but only on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. The Bixby 2.0 SDK has begun an initial closed, invitation-only beta test, which Samsung plans to open to more users over the next few months.

SEE: All of TechRepublic's cheat sheets and smart person's guides

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 digital assistant to smart device interface, Samsung announced the Galaxy Home, an Amazon Echo-like smart speaker that is powered by Bixby.

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.

Additional resources

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.

Additional resources

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, 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.

Once Bixby 2.0 is made available on more phones and smart devices it 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.

Additional resources

When will Bixby 2.0 be available in more products?

Bixby 2.0 is only on the Galaxy Note 9. Samsung hasn't said when Bixby 2.0 will be available on other Samsung smartphones and smart devices, but it will be part of the recently revealed Galaxy Home smart speaker. Along with other news coming from the November 2018 Samsung Developers Conference, it's likely we could start to see Bixby 2.0 on other devices within the next year.

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.

Additional resources

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Image: Samsung

About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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