What Will Samsung Do?

The smart speaker market is big and getting bigger. That's because voice control is a killer app whose time has come. Amazon currently owns the market, with Google a distant second. Apple will soon launch, with much fanfare, its HomePod. But what about Samsung? Well, rumors are starting to swirl.

Amazon's Alexa is kicking butt. Alexa has more than 15,000 skills; it has quintupled its skill set in the past year, and just since June, its skill set has jumped by 23%. I recently lamented that the Amazon Echo Dot was the best-selling smart speaker. It's a wonderful device, but I lamented its popularity because its sound quality is abysmally basic. Apple says its entry will sound really good, but frankly I am skeptical; Apple has never particularly distinguished itself in terms of audio fidelity, and I am including Beats in that assessment. I sincerely hope the HomePod proves me wrong. But I think Apple is touting the sound quality of the HomePod because it already knows its AI has real limitations. If that's the case, is their heart really into getting premium sound, or is it just a marketing smokescreen to cover known deficiencies?

In any case, I am still waiting for someone to market the Holy Grail of smart speakers — one that has all the voice recognition and cloud support sorted out, and also, when asked to play back some music, can actually put some meat on those bones. Just imagine — millions of people buy a speaker because they can talk to it, and then — wham! It delivers clear, clean, excellent fidelity. A Trojan Horse bringing good sound back into the home. So far, I am still waiting.

Now comes Samsung with a device code-named "Vega." My crystal ball is still hazy, so I don't have a fix on a launch date. But it will certainly use Samsung's voice assistant, Bixby. Bixby is still new to the market, and has had its share of problems; it's too soon to tell how good it is. But I have faith that Samsung can master this. Besides, I'm more concerned that we get a mass-market speaker with exceptional sound quality, and less concerned about voice regnition and the cloud.

Samsung has the chance to do something exceptional; if Vega can be tightly integrated with Samsung Galaxy and Note devices, it could easily become the preferred device for millions of people. If Vega is endowed with premium sound quality, then those millions will have something that is truly game changing.

And here's the ace up the sleeve: Samsung owns Harman. Apple owns Beats. But Harman is a far mightier audio company. If Samsung asks Harman to make Vega sound awesome, Harman can easily accomplish that. Beats? I'm not so sure. If Samsung decides not to enlist Harman's expertise, the mother company also has excellent in-house audio engineers who have demonstrated that they can achieve terrific results. In the race to introduce premium sound quality back into the mass market through smart speakers, my money is on Samsung. Please don't disappoint me.

jnemesh's picture

Yet ANOTHER lousy sounding amplified speaker that listens to every word spoken in your home that will, of course, be proprietary, and communicate only with YET ANOTHER set of compatible electronics! Yay?