After liftoff, Samsung's Galaxy S8 will face many unknowns

Samsung will unveil its Galaxy S8 flagship device on March 29. Here's a look at some of the key wildcards for the demand curve, artificial intelligence and business and financial impacts.


The launch of the Samsung Galaxy S8 March 29 will represent a comeback for the company's mobile unit, which is recovering by the Galaxy Note 7 disaster. What's unclear is how Samsung Galaxy S8 flagship phone will fare given the multiple unknowns the company is facing.

Samsung's Galaxy S8 lands amid a backdrop of the company's January report on what went wrong with the Note 7 and how it is fixing its processes to prevent battery problems in the future. That report went a long way to allaying fears, but brand recoveries take time.

Enter the Galaxy S8. The device will have new artificial intelligence tools via a service called Bixby. A curved screen and plus and regular-sized models have also been leaked. Here's a look at some of the unknowns surrounding Samsung's flagship device.

See: Galaxy S8 Bixby assistant will be expanded to all Samsung devices

The demand curve. Daishin Securities analyst Claire Kim argued that demand will be brisk at launch.

Expectations for the Galaxy S8 will spread sooner or later, given 1) there has been pent-up demand for premium smartphones since the scandalous Galaxy Note 7 and 2) higher-level specifications relative to premium smartphones from Greater China companies will stimulate replacement demand.

Kim may have a point, but I could argue the opposite. Given the Note 7 fiasco, there's a case to be made the demand will be slower out of the gate. Perhaps the Galaxy S8 will be more of a "wait and see" device. Why wait? The Note 7. It's possible that tech buyers may hold back to see if reports of battery issues surface.

CNET: Samsung's Galaxy S8 could come in a rainbow of colors, including gold

Assuming there are no issues, it's likely that demand for the Galaxy S8 will be strong. The big question is will demand build over time or come out of the gate strong.

Will Bixby be a real AI alternative? Samsung's Bixby sounds interesting on the surface, but it's worth noting that Android rivals are building in Amazon's Alexa. Alexa is everywhere. Google will also have its assistant on Android devices. If you really want to get crazy with the digital assistants you could get a Microsoft Cortana helper too. Apple has Siri. Add it up and Bixby is like someone who arrives at a crowded party just as folks are about to leave and go home. Bixby will have to bring something unique to be a differentiator.

The business halo effect. Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 was supposed to be the device that drove business demand and love for the company's B2B unit. When the Galaxy Note 7 was pulled off the market for good, enterprises most likely navigated more into the Apple iOS camp. Apple has partnerships with IBM and SAP. Apple's iOS is also dominant in the enterprise. Samsung's Galaxy S8 may at least garner a second look from businesses--especially those companies using Google's cloud for apps.

What kind of earnings boost will Samsung's earnings receive? Repeat after me: Samsung is printing money no matter what the Galaxy S8 does. Analysts are expecting a huge first quarter from Samsung's semiconductor unit. In addition, Apple is rumored to be using Samsung for a OLED screen for the next-gen iPhone. Samsung can win with the Galaxy S8 or it can win providing components to the rest of the ecosystem. When it comes to Samsung's financials, the Galaxy S8 is gravy.

Can Samsung still command a premium with the Galaxy S8? At CES and Mobile World Congress, the march of Android devices with great specs and prices was unavoidable. Huawei and Lenovo's Moto unit are putting out real values. You can buy two well-equipped devices from Lenovo or Huawei for what you'll likely pay for the Galaxy S8. Samsung has held premium pricing for years, but the value competition is hard to ignore.


The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8:00am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6:00pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US.

Previously on Monday Morning Opener:

Samsung and Start VR offer virtual reality as therapy for cancer patients
Samsung posts strong full-year profit thanks to semiconductors
It's inevitable: Samsung will build a phone with a foldable display
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