With Viv, Samsung challenges Apple…and Google

Who will be the new BlackBerry?

Apple, Samsung, Google, iOS, Android, Tizen, Siri, Viv, iPhone

The acquisition of digital assistant, Viv, has raised Samsung’s status to that of peer player in the smart devices wars, and while Apple is a traditional target, Google, Amazon, HTC and other Android maker also have much to fear.

Ecosystem meltdown

The same team who built Siri developed the Viv digital assistant. It is described as more capable than the original version of the Apple digital assistant.

What’s Samsung going to do with it? Not so many years ago Samsung was relatively unknown in some markets, including the US. Today the company has successfully used its ‘anti-Apple’ marketing to occupy more space in consumer mind share in that market.

That’s good for Samsung because its factories churn out everything, from TVs to cameras, DVRs to industrial, and even military, equipment. With this purchase, Samsung is staking out its strategy for the Internet of Things.

‘Open’ neo-warfare

There is no guarantee the company will play nice with Google in this attempt. After all, only this week Google chose to challenge Samsung at the high end of the Android smartphone market, and the South Korean firm’s dependence on the Android OS means it has little to set it apart from others, including LG and HTC. Google’s move to eat its own ecosystem is hardly designed to build platform loyalty among those firms that have invested so much in hardware to carry Google software.

While Pixel lacks the processing power, build quality, design innovation or water resistance of competing handsets in its price range (including those from Apple and Samsung), it does offer some Google first features other Android makers can't deal just yet. This exposes what could be seen as cynicism in Google’s relationship with handset makers, marriages of convenience the company will terminate without regret in favour of its own expedience.

Intelligent machines

I don't imagine Samsung is too happy about that, so it is good it has an alternative in its now open source Tizen OS. Now, a year or two ago I’d have laughed at the concept of Tizen taking on Android and iOS, the smartphone market is pretty much defined around those two platforms, but things are changing.

Smart devices are an inflection point. A new stage in the Singularity-driven proliferation of intelligent machines, and Samsung is now in a great position to put intelligence, including Viv, inside the machines it makes, as I said, “everything, from TVs to cameras, DVRs to industrial – and even military – equipment.”

It isn’t as if Samsung is making a secret of this. It says the deal is part of its, “broader vision to deliver an AI-based open ecosystem across all of its devices and services.”

"With the rise of AI, consumers now desire an interaction with technology that is conversational, personalized and contextual - an experience that fits seamlessly within their everyday lives," the firm added.

It will use Viv in phones, TVs and a wide range of other devices. These are devices that already run Samsung’s own software, so it seems logical to migrate these to Tizen (which already drives wearables, televisions, car kits and smartphone from the company). Given the move to wield smart intelligence within everything, why would it not want to add Viv support within its own open source OS. As well as ensuring its Tizen platform plays nice with iOS, of course.

Who is the new BlackBerry?

How I see this playing out is Samsung applying its industrial muscle to place its own OS inside a forest of connected smart devices, equipped with Viv. (“Hey, washing machine, do a whites wash and let the robot know when to hang it to dry.”)

Samsung has manufacturing scale, and while it may hang onto using Android for a while this will be a forked version. This move to fork the OS will be emulated by device manufacturers large and small, introducing new layers of complexity within the OS.

How does this impact Apple? Well, we know Apple customers tend to stay with its solutions once they begin using them – it boasts customer satisfaction levels that are the envy of the industry. This means it's own market share should remain stable, while it watches its competitors compete for the rest (as it has done for the last few years).

I think Samsung has played a smart move with Viv. It opens up a whole bunch of interesting options and means mobile is once again a three horse race. In this race, who is most likely to be the new BlackBerry (or Microsoft)?

  • Samsung with its vast industrial manufacturing base?
  • Apple with its decades of world class software development, hardware design and mass market retail experience?
  • Google with its ads sales business and extensive experience of server-based services?

Why not tell me who you think looks most likely to become the new BlackBerry in comments below?

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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