Samsung just reinvented the Nokia Communicator

samsung communicator
The original foldable: the Nokia 9300 Communicator. Image credit: Andrey Blumenfeld / Shutterstock.com

Last week, Samsung showed the form factor within which it thinks that a folding screen will be most applicable, and in doing so has reinvented the enterprise-focused iconic Nokia Communicator.

Most importantly, Samsung confirmed that the screen would be going into mass production in the coming months, confirming that either it intends to launch a device itself or that it has a customer that has guaranteed volume.

However, Samsung also doubled down on the awful Bixby, which I think will continue to make its excellent hardware products less attractive to consumers.

Samsung announced three areas of focus for Bixby going forward:

Devices: More of Samsung’s devices such as TVs, refrigerators, tablets and so on will start shipping with Bixby integrated at the factory. Unfortunately, this will make it harder for long-suffering Samsung fans to turn it off or get rid of it all together.

Samsung also expects that third-party products will also be launching products with Bixby. I think that in reality, this means only Harman due to the fact that Samsung owns the company. There is no rational or economic (other being paid large amounts of money by Samsung) for any independent entity to implement this over Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or the independent SoundHound.

Languages: Bixby will now support five new languages leaving it still miles behind its competitors. One of these is British English, which hardly counts a new language in my opinion.

Open platform: Samsung will open the platform to the developer community so that developers can make use of Bixby in their own apps. Samsung is also launching a marketplace where Bixby specific services can be enabled to consumers. This is just like the repository of skills offered by Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Bixby is now Samsung’s “singular commitment to AI”, which I continue to believe is doomed to failure. This is because Bixby has to compete with Google Assistant which sits on the home key of every Google ecosystem device that Samsung makes in that regard it is woefully inadequate. In every single assessment that I or others have made, Bixby is hopelessly outclassed by almost the entire field of its competitors.

Consequently, in the long run, owners of Samsung TVs are going to want something else on their TVs and fridges etc other than Bixby.

All of Samsung’s devices outside of smartphones and tablets are running Tizen which means that Bixby will be all one gets. I think that this reinforces my view that the more Bixby’s increases its reach, the less attractive Samsung devices become.

Samsung is under real threat here, because the Chinese are quite happy to make very high-quality Google Assistant enabled TVs, and Huawei is starting to close the gap on Samsung in terms of market share in smartphones.

Consequently, I believe that the sooner Samsung abandons Bixby and focuses on what consumers want, the better its chances will be of keeping the Chinese at bay.

Folding screen

Samsung showed a device with a fully flexible folding display that effectively reinvents the Nokia Communicator from 1996.

The tech press has been quick to diss the innovation, but I think that its reporters are not old enough to remember the Nokia Communicator, which was available from 1996 to 2007. This was an iconic device that was beloved of the enterprise community in the early days of email and productivity applications on mobile devices.

The new form factor presented by Samsung is a folding device that opens up into a 7.3” tablet shaped screen. Pundits were quick to quick to point out that this shape is useless for consuming media which is almost always 16:9 or wider, but I think that this is missing the point. This will be an productivity-focused enterprise device, which justifies the shape of the internal screen as well as what is certain to be a very high price.

It will be relatively low volume (as enterprise-focused devices always are) that is effectively a trial balloon to see how popular it is with the bleeding edge and early adopters.

I think that this form-factor has a shot at triggering another product cycle for the smartphone. However, to do so, it will have to be barely thicker than a smartphone is today, as well as offer a great user experience for consumers as well as the enterprise.

The Nokia Communicator was iconic for the enterprise, but never made it to the consumer. In this regard, Samsung has to be different, but given its world-leading expertise in displays, it has a chance.

This is an innovation that could drive Samsung’s financials going forward. This is in stark contrast to the awful Bixby which has the scope to do just the opposite and should be immediately abandoned.

This article was originally published at RadioFreeMobile

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1 Comment

  1. The Communicator never made it to the consumer because it was (almost literally) the size and general heft of a housebrick. That said, it was a wonderful thing – it felt like a device from the future… not sure a foldy tablet will be quite so exciting…

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