Google might stomp on Samsung's plans to launch the Galaxy S8 with an artificial intelligence-powered assistant, according to an industry analyst.
Back in October, Samsung acquired Viv Labs, an AI startup that created a unique digital assistant that can improve itself without any human input. The acquisition sparked rumors of a Galaxy S8 AI Assistant with advanced features, which would give Samsung a notable edge against rivals.
On the other hand, this would also put Samsung in direct competition with Google, more so than before.
The problem is that Samsung signed a patent-sharing agreement with Google back in 2014, and the agreement reportedly included a non-compete provision. Simply put, Samsung signed that it will not offer any Android services that compete with Google's own services.
Equipping its Galaxy S8 with a smart digital assistant would make sense for Samsung, especially since Apple already has Siri and Microsoft has Cortana. However, it would also compete with the Google Assistant, which would violate the non-compete arrangement.
Samsung's Hands Are Tied
According to Edison Investment Research industry analyst Richard Windsor, the non-compete agreement means that Samsung cannot make any significant software changes to set its devices apart from the crowd. An AI assistant on an Android-based Galaxy S8 would amount to a substantial software change.
As The Register reports, Windsor thinks that Google will act on that agreement and prevent Samsung from releasing the Galaxy S8 with Viv Labs' AI Assistant because it already plans to integrate Google Assistant into Android. For now, Google Assistant is available only with the latest Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones.
At the same time, Android also has a simplified version of Google Assistant already, in the form of Google Allo, so even without plans to extend Google Assistant to more Android devices Google could still prevent Samsung from releasing its own AI assistant with the Galaxy S8.
Meanwhile, Samsung is under pressure to unleash a big hit after the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco and a top-notch digital assistant from Viv could go a long way toward securing the Galaxy S8's success.
If Windsor turns out to be correct and Google hinders Samsung's integration of Viv Labs, preventing the Galaxy S8 AI assistant from seeing the light of day, Samsung's mobile division may have even more trouble ahead.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Specs Highlights
On the other hand, Samsung is not putting all of its eggs into just one basket and the purported AI assistant will not be the only highlight of the Galaxy S8. Its next-generation flagship is also expected to be the first smartphone to boast Bluetooth 5 with twice the speed and quadruple the range of Bluetooth 4, and it should also be the first handset to pack the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor.
Moreover, recent rumors also indicated that the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 will come with foldable displays and top-tier specs and features all around.
It remains to be seen which reports and predictions are accurate, but the Galaxy S8 should nonetheless rock innovative features to wipe the slate clean after the Galaxy Note 7 disaster. As always, we'll keep you up to date as soon as we learn more.