Last month, at its Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple unveiled the HomePod, a voice-controlled smart speaker promising high-quality music playback, powered by its digital assistant, Siri. So it's perhaps no great surprise that Samsung is said to be working on its own smart speaker, using its new Bixby assistant, which it introduced on its latest Galaxy S8 and S8+ flagship phones.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Samsung has been working on the new speaker - codenamed 'Vega' - for more than a year, but there's no clear timeframe for its release. Several unnamed sources said that specifications for the device haven't been finalized, and it seems that progress has been hindered by ongoing linguistic issues with Bixby.
Samsung still hasn't launched a full version of Bixby for English-speaking countries, despite the Galaxy S8 and S8+ having been on sale for weeks. Last week, it emerged that Samsung is still scrambling to assemble the resources and tools it needs to develop Bixby's capabilities, including a lack of data and foreign language experts. The firm originally said the English-language Bixby would be complete - with full voice support - by the Spring, but one source stated that it's unlikely to be ready until the end of July.
But while some might be tempted to accuse Samsung of 'copying' Apple in launching a similar product to the HomePod, the South Korean tech giant has apparently been working on smart speaker projects for several years. Before it began work on Vega, it had previously planned to launch another speaker - codenamed 'Hive' - at Mobile World Congress 2015. However, development of that device was abandoned due to various software problems, including voice recognition issues.
In that context, the issues that Samsung continues to face with Vega seem like a case of history repeating itself. Until Samsung can make more meaningful progress in its development of Bixby, its new smart speaker is unlikely to come to market anytime soon.
If Samsung ever gets around to launching Vega, it won't only be competing with Apple's HomePod. The Amazon Echo has already established a strong presence in the smart speaker market, as has the Google Home. Meanwhile, new speakers are also being developed with Microsoft's Cortana assistant, including the Invoke from Harman Kardon... which is now owned by Samsung.
Source: The Wall Street Journal