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Galaxy Home will launch by April, Samsung CEO says

DJ Koh, speaking with CNET after Unpacked, gives a hint about the unveiling of Samsung's smart speaker.

galaxy-home-bixby

The Galaxy Home will launch this spring. 

Juan Garzon / CNET

Samsung's long-awaited Galaxy Home speaker will launch by April, the company's co-CEO said Wednesday. 

DJ Koh, the head of Samsung's mobile business, made the comments to CNET following the company's Unpacked event in San Francisco. The company unveiled four new Galaxy S10 smartphones (including a model that runs on 5G networks), its Galaxy Fold foldable phone, Galaxy Buds earbuds and three new smartwatches.

The ultra-packed product launch included no word about Samsung's smart speaker. The South Korean company unveiled the Bixby-powered device during its Galaxy Note 9 launch in August. It showed it again during its developer conference in November but hadn't yet specified the launch date.

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Bixby is Samsung's homegrown digital voice assistant that launched with the Galaxy S8 nearly two years ago. It initially was geared as an interface to control the phone, but Samsung since then expanded the technology into its various appliances and televisions. Bixby will show up in Samsung's TVs this year, as well as its Family Hub refrigerator

For Samsung and numerous others, artificial intelligence is the next big wave of computing. Every tech heavyweight is investing in these assistants because they're heralded as the future of how we'll interact with our gadgets. The ultimate promise for the smart technology is to predict what you want before you even ask -- but in most cases, the digital assistants just aren't smart enough yet.

Only 4 percent of US adults accessing voice assistants on a smartphone use Bixby, according to a survey by Voicebot.AI. That compares to 44 percent for Siri, 30 percent for Google Assistant and 17 percent for Alexa.

Putting Bixby in a smart speaker is the next logical move for the company, which bought Harman and its well-regarded audio business in late 2016. 

But Samsung and Bixby face an already crowded smart speaker market. According to a report from IHS Markit, 21 percent of US households already have a smart speaker. Amazon with its Alexa-enabled Echo speakers, virtually dominates the smart speaker market, while Apple with its Siri-controlled HomePod is trying to appeal to higher-end audiophiles. Google, the provider of the operating system that runs on Samsung's phones, also has been pushing its Assistant in speakers and other devices and has a strong foothold in the sector.  

Originally published at 12:47 p.m. PT
Update at 3:48 p.m. PT: Adds background