Maintaining Bixby's reputation for being late and underwhelming, Samsung's digital assistant has finally got its own marketplace.
"The Bixby Marketplace is a one-stop shop for users to browse and add a wide range of services (known as capsules) to enhance their Bixby experience," Samsung excitedly announced on Monday.
As with everything Bixby, however, it feels like a budget version of what already exists on the market. The approach is based on Amazon's Alexa skills program – where third parties can write apps that interact with its digital assistant.
But while the Bixby marketplace has just over 50 "capsules" available at launch that compares to over 90,000 in the Alexa marketplace. Alexa has a clear market lead, but Google Assistant boasts around 5,000 "actions" and even Microsoft has several hundred Cortana skills.
While Amazon has just launched monetization for its Japanese skills and a Spanish language version, Bixby is currently only available in the US and Korea and isn’t accessible through a browser.
"The Bixby Marketplace’s official launch lays the foundation for an open ecosystem of useful services that developers will continuously enrich, and users will be able to make their mobile experience more personal and intuitive," Samsung endearingly promised today.
There are some staples in the marketplace – Google Maps, Spotify, iHeartRadio, NPR, Yelp – but it all feels sadly familiar for the lackluster Bixby. It's been two years since Samsung's AI assistant launched and it was met with immediate scorn, with reviewers, noting that it was only really useful as a reminder app.
The consumer launch was delayed a month, and then delayed again after Samsung admitted it was having trouble understanding English. When version 2.0 of Bixby was launched this time last year, the announcement went viral for all the wrong reasons: a top exec pleaded with audience members to applaud.
We've not really heard anything about Bixby since then but there is also a Bixby Voice for voice commands, a Bixby Vision for translating text and scanning QR codes, and a Bixby Home for news reports and smart device controls.
There is supposed to be a Samsung Galaxy Home device – the company's answer to the Amazon Echo and Google Home – which will use Bixby as its AI assistant but this has been repeatedly delayed. The latest launch guesstimate is for the third quarter of this year.
If Samsung wants to get a foothold in the digital assistant market it needs to offer something better or, at least, different that what currently exists. The marketplace launch today has unfortunately revealed that it offers neither. ®