It’s probably safe to assume Samsung expected a warmer reception from its typically enthusiastic fans for the Korean company’s ambitious rival to Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and Cortana.
But after a very rocky first few months of limited availability, Bixby finally expanded its voice capabilities, also spreading to a number of mid-range phones and tablets. The virtual assistant’s dedicated button is no longer annoying millions of people, and soon enough, Samsung plans to go for Amazon Echo and Google Home’s jugulars.
In active development since at least July, reportedly put on hold the same month, then officially confirmed in August for a commercial release sometime “soon”, the chaebol’s as-yet-unnamed smart speaker is now tentatively slated for a 2018 rollout during the year’s first half.
Pricing and launch plans are still “fluid and may change”, according to “people familiar” with the matter, so we shouldn’t take the freshly rumored $200 MSRP for granted. That certainly sounds like an appropriate price point for a device focused on audio quality and smart home controls aiming for a size and market positioning between the “regular” Echo and Apple’s premium HomePod.
The latter will fetch $349 when it finally sees daylight next year, a Google Home Max costs an even higher $399, while the refreshed Echo is normally priced at just $100, with a standard Google Home at $129, $150 Echo Plus, and $230 touchscreen-sporting Echo Show currently crowding the still-fledgling business.
It remains to be seen if Samsung can make its rookie smart speaker effort a compelling value proposition at least for users of the OEM’s flagship phones and SmartThings connected home platform.