Samsung is wading into the smart-speaker market with an entirely new product called the Galaxy Home.
The speaker has a large, rounded body and sits on a tripod — a very different design from competing speakers offered by Amazon.com, Google, Microsoft and Apple. Samsung announced a partnership with Spotify, which is the default music player for the Galaxy Home. The speaker will be able to pick up streams from a Galaxy phone and hand it off to the speaker.
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The company didn’t say much about the Galaxy Home apart from acknowledging its existence, and promising more details will come at its developers conference in November. But the Home appears to be going after a market similar to Apple’s HomePod by focusing on the importance of sound quality. Samsung owns speaker maker Harman and said it worked with its subsidiary to develop the sound technology.
The Galaxy Home is controlled via voice through Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant, which launched in May 2017. Reviewers have generally judged Bixby to be less capable than Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana or Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant programs. Samsung, however, has invested heavily in artificial intelligence and voice technology.
Still, Samsung executives had some trouble getting Bixby to work in a live demonstration onstage Thursday.
Samsung built the Galaxy Home with eight microphones to allow the speaker to hear someone’s voice at long distances. The microphones will also be able to give the speaker an accurate idea of where the person controlling it is standing. If given the command, “Bixby, sound steer,” it will adjust its audio to aim in the direction of that person.
“While there weren’t a lot of details, the device looks differentiated and based on Samsung’s expertise in consumer electronics, should be high quality,” analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy said. “I’m keeping an open mind on Bixby.”
Samsung revealed that it was using 160 Galaxy Home speakers for the audio of its Thursday presentation, where it also unveiled the Galaxy Note 9.
The South Korean company is prioritizing a broader push into the home, saying at the CES electronics trade show in January that it intends to make all of its products into smart devices by 2020.
Analyst Wayne Lam of IHS Markit said in a note that the Galaxy Home shows how Samsung is pulling together elements from across the company to compete in the smart-home market. “Samsung now has all the pieces of a hardware and software platform to compete with Apple,” he said Thursday.