Samsung Announces Third-Party Bixby Developer Tools – SDC 2018

SDC 2018 Keynote AI Ecosystem Screencap

Samsung is looking to push its Bixby AI platform to a more directly competitive position by opening it up to third-party developers and on third-party devices, according to executive Eui-Suk Chung. Speaking at this year's Samsung Developer Conference (SDC) 2018 event in San Francisco, the executive began by highlighting the fact that Bixby serves as the singular focal point for the company's AI efforts and the fact that Samsung sells around 500 million devices every year. The company plans to take advantage of that by including Bixby on all of its own handsets and devices ranging from televisions to washing machines by the year 2020. That's in addition to promised investments of as much as $22 billion in the technology and plans to hire more than 1,000 AI experts over the time period.

However, it also wants the wider development community to be involved, creating an environment that doesn't require users to know 'how' to use Bixby, instead focusing on letting users interact on the basis of "what they want to do." To that end, the company is introducing a suite of developer tools that are said to be identical to those used by Samsung's own development teams and is opening up the service in a total of five new languages. Those include German, French, Italian, English (UK), and Spanish and will be introduced over the coming months. Moreover, the company plans to launch Bixby Marketplace, which will serve as a channel for third-party developers to market their services.

Background: Bixby has been on the market since 2017, making it a relative newcomer with respect for the AI digital assistant and smart home hub sector of the industry. It also hasn't been the most highly-lauded of that grouping either, with numerous complaints surfacing over the years relating to the technology. For clarity, most of those have centered around the company's decision to include the feature behind dedicated hardware buttons that can't be remapped or disabled. However, that highlights the fact that for many users, although subjective, Bixby traditionally hasn't stacked up to competing platforms. However, that has been changing over the past several months and with improvements launched alongside Samsung's latest flagship devices.


Among the more recent improvements made to the platform is the company's decision to allow support for third-party applications on mobile devices. That change was revealed in September and, once implemented, means that users will be able to access the apps they have installed through Bixby rather than having to type, tap, or swipe to get to those. In fact, the newly highlighted developer tools, including an application programming interface (API) and full-fledged software development kit (SDK), were implicated at the time, indicating that those are all a part of the same expansion.

Impact: Samsung says its underlying goal is to ensure that Bixby will "fundamentally change" how users interact with technology and enable a scalable and complete AI ecosystem. However, the biggest impact of this year's SDC announcements may be the growth of Bixby into a complete AI that's able to more readily compete with current leaders in the market such as Google Assistant or Amazon's Alexa. Although it is getting a late start on that front, Samsung's reach in the consumer marketplace for electronics should go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.