Buying Viv, Samsung makes its “me too” virtual assistant play


Feeling intensifying pressure from Google, Apple and Amazon, Samsung has acquired virtual assistant Viv. CEO Dag Kittlaus, who ran Siri before Apple bought it, will continue to operate Viv “independently” but still work closely with Samsung.

Not content to rely on the Google Assistant, Samsung undoubtedly felt that it needed its own virtual assistant capability (it already has voice search). But like so many Samsung “me too” products and experiences (i.e., S Voice, Samsung Pay) it’s likely to fall short on the smartphone. Where Viv may shine and add real value for Samsung is on other products and smart home appliances.

Samsung understands correctly that virtual assistants will figure more and more prominently, not only in the mobile (search) experience but as a UI/UX across platforms and devices and especially in the smart home. (Viv can also be deployed behind chat/messaging.)

Siri was sold before it was able to fully realize the founding vision, which was to disintermediate Google and layer an intelligent assistant on top of third party mobile content and transactional capabilities. Kittlaus and his team founded Viv to pick up where Siri left off. Siri is now starting to integrate third party content and capabilities.

Ironically, Viv has followed the same path as Siri by allowing itself to be acquired before maturing as a product and user experience. Kittlaus and his team must have felt they needed a deep pocket to fully bring Viv’s ambitious vision — which is to “radically simplif[y] the world by providing an intelligent interface to everything” — to fruition and compete with larger companies.

If Samsung provides Kittlaus and Viv with resources but truly allows the company to operate independently it has a fighting chance. However the more directly involved Samsung becomes in the product vision, direction and management the more likely it is to become an also-ran product.

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