Samsung reportedly cancels Bixby speaker plans – smart speaker market too crowded?

Over the past few months, several reports out of Korea had claimed that Samsung was developing its own smart speaker to capitalise on the immense popularity of Amazon’s Echo and Google Home. Now, those same sources are claiming that the South Korean outfit is backing away from the market, and it’s because of that immense popularity.

Cited by the Korean Herald, an unnamed source said that the native company was no longer enthused by the prospect of a device to rival the Echo. "Samsung currently does not view Al speakers as marketable", they said. "The global market is already dominated by unbeatable Amazon and the Korean market is too small to make profits."

With Apple’s high-profile Homepod on its way to shelves this Winter, the smart speaker space is only going to get more congested and evidently Samsung believes that its Bixby AI assistant, that launched earlier this week in English-speaking markets, would not be best served in a speaker at this moment. That’s not to say that the company won’t reignite its interest in the future, just that it’s put it on the backburner for now. 

Samsung already has its SmartThings IoT kit that launched earlier this year, which is a platform that offers complete control over a smarthome without a monthly fee or any sort of contract, and while it has seen much critical acclaim, it appears to not have given the company enough confidence to further pursue this other aspect of the smart home. 

And any company looking to launch its own Echo-rivalling would be wise to take Samsung’s skepticism on board. The Echo’s assistant Alexa already has 10,000 skills that enable it to interract with everything from thermostats to routers. Any new product launching without that kind of level of third-party support would be at a distinct disadvantage.

Samsung, who is set to overtake Apple as the world’s largest tech company, thinking twice about the smart speakers and backing away is an indicator that this new market is already a very crowded one. With Google, Amazon and soon Apple and Microsoft being the largest players in the space, it’s easy to forget that other vendors like Bose and Xiaomi also have products in the market. And it’s not difficult to see why, with the Smart Speaker market predicted to grow to $13 billion by 2024.

Of course, while this caution may see Samsung enter into the market at a later date with a more refined product, the longer it waits to create its own smart speaker, the more crowded the market will become and the more difficult it will be to draw users away from their existing devices. Only time will tell if this hesitant gamble will pay off or if it spectacularly backfires as a huge missed opportunity.

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