Samsung on Monday launched the Bixby Marketplace, a new ecosystem for third-party services that work with Samsung's voice-activated assistant Bixby. The new marketplace will offer services, referred to as "capsules," from a range of popular brands, including Google Maps, Spotify, iHeartRadio, NPR and Yelp. It could help Bixby gain some ground against vastly more popular voice assistants, such as Apple's Siri and Google Assistant.
The new marketplace is now open to users in the US and Korea. Samsung promises it will let users "make their mobile experience more personal and intuitive." They can access the marketplace by pressing the Bixby key and then swiping left from the Bixby main page. Categories organize the capsules; they're searchable by capsule name, developer, or keyword; and Samsung will highlight curated staff picks. As with other marketplaces, users will be able to rate and review the capsules.
Once a user has downloaded a capsule, they can add it as a "preferred capsule." So, for example, if a user chose a specific rideshare capsule as their preferred choice, they could tell Bixby, "Get me a ride to the airport" to pull up their favorite rideshare option.
As of late last year, Bixby was still a minor player in the virtual assistant market. A September survey of US adults showed that just 4% used Bixby on their smartphone, compared with 44 percent who used Apple's Siri and 30 percent who used Google Assistant.
However, Samsung has been taking aggressive steps this year to expand Bixby's capabilities and its reach. For instance, in April, the company brought Bixby support to its Galaxy earbuds. In May, it launched the Bixby Premier Developer Program. And with the release of the Galaxy S10 Plus earlier this year, Samsung left the familiar Bixby button on the left side of the device.
The moves line up with Samsung's three-point plan for transforming Bixby "from a simple mobile voice assistant to a scalable AI platform," according to Samsung executive VP Eui-Suk Chung. In addition to bringing Bixby to more devices, that includes opening the platform up to developers and expanding support for more languages.