Ko Dong-jin, head of the Mobile Division of Samsung Electronics, had a press conference immediately after the unveiling of the Galaxy Note 8 in New York on August 23 (local time). There, he made comments about how tough hardware innovation is. “It has been said that recently released products are almost identical to one another when it comes to hardware and those who say so do have a point there,” he said, adding, “Still, they are quite different at parts other than hardware platforms, such as systems and software stabilization.” This is a remark that shows Samsung Electronics is increasingly worried with more and more smartphone manufacturers around the world reaching a certain level of technology.
“My company cannot enjoy the current levels of sales and profits for good with its smartphones alone,” he mentioned, continuing, “Samsung Electronics is transforming itself so that new experience and value can be provided for consumers via smartphones.”
The new business model mentioned by the president is expected to be an artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem in which smartphones, consumer electronics, self-driving cars and so on are combined with one another around its personal AI assistant Bixby. “Samsung Electronics’ business items include not only smartphones but also a wide variety of electronics products and this business portfolio is unique to Samsung Electronics across the world,” the president explained and went on to say, “We are planning to make the most of this advantage and there will be a chance for me to say more things about this point.” At this year’s IFA in Berlin, Germany scheduled for September 1, Samsung Electronics unveils its smart home vision based on the Family Hub refrigerator before connecting every electronics product via the IoT by 2020. Its AI speaker based on voice recognition is expected to make its debut next year to accelerate this move.
Samsung Electronics is likely to increase its presence in the self-driving vehicle platform industry as well in step with the launching of commercial 5G services in 2020. This is expected to be led by Harman International Industries, which was acquired by Samsung Electronics for US$8 billion last year. Harman has software upgrade solutions using wireless communications as well as infotainment technology for connected cars. At present, Harman’s share is approximately 41% in the global car audio market. “The acquisition of Harman was very reasonable in view of today’s trends such as augmented reality and Harman will play an important role for Bixby to be able to speak more languages,” he said.
Bixby is currently capable of recognizing Korean and English. It made its debut in more than 200 countries around the world on August 22. Samsung Electronics is now working on Bixby’s recognition of Chinese and about 90% of this project has been completed so far. At the same time, the company is trying to increase the accuracy of Bixby’s voice recognition and response by means of machine learning and is planning to apply the AI assistant to its products like air conditioners and TVs, not to mention smartphones, to collect more big data, which is a key element for more sophisticated AI.
Samsung Electronics’ plans also include sharing the application programming interface (API) of Bixby with outside developers so that it can be used with non-Samsung products as well. “During the development of Bixby 1.0, we had no time to help them join us,” he continued to say, adding, “However, we will release Bixby 2.0 at the developer conference in October this year and help them join the ecosystem.” Samsung Electronics is expected to be able to take the lead in the self-driving car market once Bixby is incorporated into vehicles coming with Harman audio systems.
In 2020 and later, AI industry leaders such as Google and Amazon are likely to be the biggest rivals to Samsung. “We are currently working very closely with both Amazon and Google, but they are predicted to make up approximately 30% of our rivals in and after 2020,” the president commented.