Samsung TVs released in 2019 will be compatible with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, marking a major change in direction for the company who has up until now continued to place a greater focus on its products working with its own AI and voice command-enabled assistant, Bixby.
However, Samsung is not quite making the support as open as might have been expected, as unlike other TVs which feature support for one or both of Amazon’s and Google's solutions, the support is only at arms-length.
Samsung is not including either third-party solution in its TVs, but instead will ensure they understand commands that are given by third-party devices that feature either of the third-party AI solutions.
Essentially, owners of an Alexa or Google Assistant-enabled device, such as an Amazon Echo or a Google Home, will be able to instruct their devices to control various elements of the Samsung TV and the TV will hear them. Anyone looking to make use of more of an on board voice assistant will still have to fall back on the use of Bixby.
One of the disadvantages of this level of support from the user perspective is the functionality of the third-party support will be greatly reduced compared to Bixby, as Alexa or Google Assistant users will only be able to control basic TV elements, including volume, power, and input selection. Anything more advanced, or using the included remote control’s mic will revert to Bixby.
In other words, buyers of a 2019 Samsung TV will not be able to generate on-screen results to commands or questions asked through Alexa or Google Assistant.
In comparison to competing products, the lesser support is very much intentional as while Samsung does understand the need to provide buyers of its TVs with a greater degree of voice assistant support, the company is still planning to place its own solution at the heart of its products going forward. This move allows Samsung to continue with that approach by providing some compatibility to those who want it.
Compared to Alexa and Google Assistant, Bixby is currently considered an inferior product that lacks the greater and deeper abilities of the other two. However, it is expected Samsung will continue to develop and improve its own solution over time and once it has become rich enough, this arms-reach approach to third-party support will guarantee its solution remains the best and most feature-rich option for buyers of its products.
Regardless, this does represent an interesting development for Samsung TV buyers and will certainly add to the appeal of the devices for those looking to buy a TV this year. At present, however, it remains unclear whether support will be afforded to those who have already purchased a recent Samsung TV. As Samsung has yet to officially comment on backwards support, instead taking the opportunity to market this as a feature applicable to future purchases.
If Samsung does opt to provide a similar level of Alexa and Google Assistant support to older models, then this would arrive as a software update. At present, that's is a big if.