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Samsung opens Bixby to third-party apps and devices

Samsung opens Bixby to third-party apps and devices

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Samsung is going to start letting app developers plug into Bixby, and hardware companies will be able to build the voice assistant into their products, too.

In the year-and-a-half since Bixby launched, Samsung has already brought the assistant to phones, fridges, TVs, and more, but they’ve all been Samsung’s own devices. With today’s news, other companies will be able to start building it into their own hardware as well, either as an alternative to Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant — or, more likely, as an additional option for users who want to live in Samsung’s ecosystem.

Bixby follows the Alexa strategy

Consumers may have more reason to embrace Bixby in the future, too, since third party developers will start being able to build services that plug into it. It’s not entirely clear what to expect or what they’ll look like — Samsung showed a demo of Bixby pulling up the various interfaces you’d need to book a hotel stay — but Samsung is promising to make Bixby so open that developers will be able to make anything that Samsung itself could.

Dag Kittlaus, CEO of Samsung-owned Viv Labs, says it’s the most powerful assistant toolkit ever made. “Way ahead of the other guys,” Kittlaus says. “And it’s not even close.”

Samsung also plans to launch Bixby in a few new languages in the coming months, including German, Italian, and French. It’ll also launch Spanish localized for Spain and English localized for the UK; those two languages are already available, but only with US localization.

Smart assistants as a whole still aren’t all that smart, but Bixby in particular has been seen as among the weaker options. It was criticized at launch, and owners of some of Samsung’s newest phones still complain about a dedicated Bixby button that they can’t remap.

Samsung is moving quickly — much quicker than Apple, for instance — to build out what Bixby is capable of doing by granting deep access to third parties. It’s not clear how it’ll distribute these third-party Bixby features or how it’ll ensure that they’re safe and functional. But if it works out, Bixby could start looking a lot more like Alexa, which has more than 50,000 third-party skills.