Key Themes of Day One of the Samsung Developers Conference

 

Samsung kicked off its developers conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Keynotes were delivered by Samsung’s President and CEO of IT and Mobile Communications, DJ Koh. Also onstage were many of his lieutenants unveiling new hardware, new software, and new offerings to 3rd party developers.

Here were the key take-aways:

The big one. Foldable displays – at last!  Many years in the making, Samsung unveiled its first foldable display—the ‘Infinity Flex Display’. Though it was stated that the display will be in mass production ‘in months’, the device was unveiled to the crowd a mere half minute, in dimmed lights, before being tucked back under cover. What we did learn is the device, when opened like a book, is a 7.3” inch display with 1536×2152 resolution and a 4.2:3 aspect ratio. The ‘cover display’, when folded, is a 4.5”inch, with 840×1960 resolution, and sports a 21:9 aspect ratio.  Multiple concepts are in design.

The key feature of the foldable display, besides its girth when open, is its ability to multi-task with multi-active windows. Three applications can be running simultaneously. For example, messaging while watching a video and reading email. Since the device is not even yet in factory ramp, the key details remain under wraps as Samsung naturally does not want to show their hand to competitors. Surely, this is a critical and key form factor of the future. However, the on-stage unveiling did have a ‘resistive touch display’ feel. Meaning, it is a great groundbreaking technology, but gen1 will certainly have its limitations as well as tremendous software work to do just as bygone resistive displays had. In addition, this certainly will not be an easily pocketable device while folded (or open).

Other key takeaways:

  • As Samsung’s smartphone volumes have been in decline, the company is trying to expand passed its strength as a hardware company to a software and services company. The company’s three cores consist of: a scalable intelligent platform, leadership in ‘connected living’, and lead future innovations in user experiences. To help with these goals, all apps and services will have easier discovery in one place—the Galaxy Store.
  • Bixby Developer Studio—easing adoption for developers and opening to 3rd parties: Samsung is marketing Bixby as a scalable AI platform to support a vast array of applications. The company demoed improvements in ASR (automatic speech recognition) and demoed improvements in conversational UI. Acknowledging being behind Google and Amazon, the company is opening the platform to 3rd parties to produce ‘capsules’, its catchy name for voice-activated functions.
  • SmartThings advancements: With a re-designed suite of tools, Samsung touts developers will more easily connect services and hardware to its SmartThings platform. By 2020, Samsung wants all of its hardware to connect to the platform. This alone puts the installed base of connected devices in the hundreds of millions. The growth of Samsung’s tier one partners has seen impressive growth in the past year. A few new to the list include Sylvania, Logitech, Honeywell, Ikea and Bose.
  • Samsung wearables service platform will open to 3rd parties. In the past, this meant accessing the Tizen studio. WSP (Samsung Wearables Platform) cloud API will be easier, cheaper, and easier to scale. Samsung believes the key verticals with immediate growth potential include: Monitoring seniors’ health, tracking workforce(s) (think stadium employees), and monitoring employee safety with geofencing.
  • Samsung will be rolling out a new UI called, One UI. The goal is to have less scrolling and for users to see options more easily on large displays. With the continued transition to large displays, the company is trying to overcome the difficulty of single-hand use (thumbs are not long enough to reach ends of displays). To overcome this, the phone will make UI changes as it knows what the user will be doing next (eg UI changes as a user dials a number). Also, the bottom 1/3 of the device will have the nucleus of the popups and choices. The UI has a cleaner look and the more rounded icons are easier to recognize. Voice UI improvements will also be implemented.
  • Helped by Samsung’s impressive installed base of hardware, the conference has been growing its attendance by over 20% each year. Over 5,000 developers are sitting in on 51 sessions (over 85% fill rate) and 13 code labs.