With Samsung cutting the dev relations team, is Bixby’s future in trouble?

Samsung is reportedly disbanding its developer relations team in charge of growing third-party voice apps for Bixby. The move comes shortly after the company was said to have started considering deeper Google Assistant integrations into its devices. And while it’s still unclear whether Google finally coughed up enough billions for Samsung to agree to the change, the Korean firm’s Bixby focus does appear to be weakening.

For clarity, the dev relations team was independent of the Viv Labs division which came to existence following Samsung’s 2016 purchase of the eponymous voice app startup which set it back some $215 million. Its remnants come down to just five people, at this point, Voicebot reports, adding that not all of those were full-time employees but outside contractors. None of the core development team in charge of Bixby was let go, though some left the company earlier this year.

Bixby’s fate remains unclear

The demise of the Bixby developer relations team also follows the cancellation of this year’s Samsung Developer Conference from last week. Together, both moves signal a wider shift away from in-house software on Samsung’s part. That transition has been in motion for a while now; for example, Bixby SVP and Viv Labs co-founder, Adam Cheyer, departed Samsung back in July. Samsung also hasn’t been looking to fill any Bixby-related positions since last year.

The Viv Labs division reportedly still has some employees doing developer outreach but their positions are likely to be transformed or eliminated should Samsung and Google reach a deal on Google Assistant integrations. Any such major partnership would almost certainly receive prime time treatment at Google I/O 2020, should it materialize this year at all.

For now, it doesn’t seem like Samsung is making any moves to give up on Bixby altogether. Cutting the developer relations team means that we may not see any major increase in third-party support for Bixby Capsules. The digital assistant lives on.

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