Samsung will launch its AI assistant Bixby in China on Thursday, November 30th, the local branch of the South Korean tech giant confirmed earlier today. The digital companion will initially be supported by the Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8 Plus, and the Galaxy Note 8, with the upcoming W2018 flip phone also being set to feature Bixby once it's released on December 1st. Bixby's Chinese launch has been delayed on several occasions over the course of this year as Samsung's engineering talent was first committed to adapting the service to English speakers after debuting it in South Korea in early spring. The tech giant's beta test of the Chinese variant of Bixby is still live, having originally started in early November, though no more applications from consumers interested in trying out the experimental build of the service are presently being accepted.
Samsung Greater China President Gyehyun Kwon called the local launch of Bixby a major milestone for the Seoul-based phone maker; while speaking to reporters at a product even held earlier today, Mr. Kwon suggested the release of the firm's new service is its way of supporting the Chinese government's new focus on artificial intelligence and its implications for the economy of the country. Apart from Bixby itself, Samsung will also be seeking to commit additional resources to promising AI startups in China, Mr. Kwon said, giving more credence to speculation that the company's recent investment in DeePhi Tech was at least partially politically motivated. With tensions between Beijing and Seoul presently being high due to the latter's deployment of the THAAD missile system at its border with North Korea, the anti-Korean sentiment in the country has reportedly been enjoying significant support and has already negatively affected Samsung's local performance.
Having held a fifth of the Chinese handset market half a decade ago, Samsung's mobile unit currently accounts for only around two percentage points of all smartphone sales in the country, according to several industry trackers. Disappointing business results prompted the tech giant to reshuffle its China-based management and restructure its local operations earlier this year, with its business in the country now being led by its former Executive Vice President Choi Kyung-sik. The Chinese version of Bixby will debut with some unique capabilities in the form of support for 18 third-party apps like Baidu Map and iQiyi, the company said, indicating that the digital helper will become compatible with even more services in the future.