Samsung to challenge Amazon's Alexa by letting developers make apps for its Bixby voice assistant

Key Points
  • Samsung will launch a software developers kit (SDK) and an application programming interface (API) for Bixby.
  • This means developers can create apps for Samsung's voice assistant.
  • The SDK and API will be launched at the Samsung Developer Conference in November.
Samsung Galaxy Home speaker

Samsung will allow third-party developers to build apps for Bixby from later this year in a bid to boost the voice assistant's capability, the CEO of the technology giant's mobile division has told CNBC.

The news comes after Samsung announced the Galaxy Home smart speaker last month, its answer to the Amazon Echo and Google Home and which will have Bixby built in, so users can ask it questions and request it to carry out tasks.

But Bixby is much newer than both its voice assistant competitors Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. As a result, Samsung wants to boost its use cases by opening up to developers.

DJ Koh, the CEO of Samsung's mobile unit, told CNBC that the company will release a software developer kit (SDK), as well as an application programming interface (API). The SDK will allow developers to make apps with Bixby, while the API will allow Bixby to be integrated with other apps.

Koh said that these updates would be released in November at the Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco.

Samsung is trying to differentiate its products in the face of stiff competition in the smartphone market from the likes of Apple and Huawei. A smart voice assistant is one way to do that, especially as Samsung faces a slowing smartphone market. It released Bixby 2.0 when it launched the Note 9 last month.

"Opening the ecosystem in November, then this baby (Bixby) will grow," Koh told CNBC last week.

"So I do not want to see just six months or nine months performance, no. Because this is like a long journey; it's just starting because with the new Bixby embedded in the Note 9, a new baby was born."

Koh said that Bixby will be able to learn more with developers creating apps that will help it grow.

Samsung is following in the footsteps of Amazon, which already has a kit that allows developers to create apps or "skills" for Alexa — these now number over 30,000. Samsung will be hoping its Bixby kit gets traction as it looks to boost the software and services side of the business amid a slowdown in hardware sales. As the world's largest smartphone maker, Samsung has scale that could help attract developers to the platform.

The South Korean electronics giant has not yet revealed the cost of its Galaxy Home smart speaker but Koh said it would be a "competitive, affordable price."