Samsung is opening up its Bixby voice assistant to third-party developers. At the same time, it’s reportedly finally allowing you to disable the Bixby key on your Galaxy Note 9. Those are some good mixed messages.
It’s no secret that Samsung’s Bixby isn’t exactly the darling of the voice assistant world. Siri has some strong name recognition, Google Assistant is generally seen as the most competent, and Alexa essentially kickstarted the smart home speaker market (even if it doesn’t necessarily dominate it now). Microsoft even pushed Cortana onto every Xbox and Windows 10 device on Earth. In such a crowded space, Bixby has a lot to prove.
It’s also not very popular. While it’s harmlessly inoffensive on things like Samsung’s smart fridges, or the unreleased Bixby smart speaker, recent Samsung phones have a dedicated button for activating the voice assistant. In some cases, it’s remarkably easy to accidentally trigger it. A tweet posted to Samsung Deutschland strongly implies that the company is working on giving users the option to disable or possibly remap the button, a common request from even Samsung fans.
Hi Max, we are working on it. Deactivation of the Bixby button on lock screen should return until end of September. ^JB
— Samsung Deutschland (@SamsungDE) September 3, 2018
So, knowing that Bixby isn’t exactly popular and that users are looking for ways to avoid it, Samsung is…opening Bixby up to third-party developers. More specifically, they’re opening it up on two fronts. First, there will be an SDK allowing developers to make apps that run inside Bixby, much like how Alexa has a skills market and Google Assistant has integrated apps. Samsung will also give device manufacturers an API that lets them add the smart assistant to their own products, expanding Bixby beyond Samsung gadgets.
On the surface, it makes sense for Samsung to bring on third-party developers, to add functionality and let users try it out on more devices. At the same time, Bixby hasn’t been very popular just yet, so expanding it further might backfire on the company. We’ll see how it goes as the year goes on and Samsung gets closer to releasing Bixby with more features on more devices.