The Galaxy Note 7 debacle has been tough on Samsung, as the company continues to pay for its shortcuts and mistakes. The Korean giant faces billions in lost sales as well as lasting damage to its reputation. Will a shiny new virtual assistant in phones help the company rehabilitate itself?
Samsung said yesterday it would be incorporating a new virtual assistant into the forthcoming Galaxy S8. The virtual assistant will be based on Viv, which was acquired by Samsung last month. It was a “me too” maneuver but one with significant implications for Samsung’s broader product lines, such as TVs and home appliances.
Viv was co-created by Dag Kittlaus, who ran Siri before Apple bought it. Samsung needed AI and a virtual assistant product to compete with Google (its frenemy) and Apple (its nemesis) going forward, while Viv probably needed more capital and resources to realize its ambitious vision. It may turn out to be a devil’s bargain for Kittlaus and his team; they may never be able to bring the product experience they envisioned to market.
AI is now a competitive necessity for big tech companies and Samsung said that it will be making future AI acquisitions. It also hopes to build a third-partly developer ecosystem for Viv (or whatever the assistant name turns out to be) as Google and Apple are doing for the Google Assistant and Siri.
Samsung creates a lot of reactive, “me too” experiences, that follow Google and Apple (e.g., S Voice, Samsung Pay). Based on that history, I don’t expect Viv on the S8 to be differentiating in the way Samsung hopes. In addition, Viv will have to contend with the competitive presence of Google’s own Assistant.
As I’ve previously argued, however, the real value of Viv for Samsung will likely come through its integration into other products and smart home appliances, where it could truly shine.