The week before last, I attended what I believe is Samsung’s most important industry event, SDC 2019 (Samsung Developer Conference) in San Jose, CA. The event always presents a great opportunity to learn about Samsung’s new and emerging technologies and ecosystem capabilities that will power the next generation of Samsung’s wide array of smart devices—from smartphones to tablets to home appliances, and more. It’s a can’t-miss event for industry insiders who follow any of the categories Samsung plays in. Let’s take a look at some of what I believe were the most consequential pieces of news from this year’s conference. I already covered One UI 2 here and fellow analyst Mark Vena covered streaming services and capabilities here.
On Day 1 of the event, Samsung announced two new laptop offerings—the Samsung Galaxy Book Flex and the Galaxy Book Ion. I believe if the company wanted to do better in this market it could, but it holds back because of its component business with Lenovo, HP and Dell. Still, these devices are worth looking at. Described as “premium,” Samsung says both devices offer strong mobility without sacrificing performance which every vendor says. The PCs both boast the industry’s first QLED laptop display, with a dedicated “outdoor mode” which I think is perfect for people on the go and feature Samsung’s patented Wireless PowerShare capability which I think is a great idea.
Both laptops contain 10th Gen Intel Core processors, and Samsung says the devices were developed as part of Intel’s Project Athena initiative (which you can read about here). They both come equipped with Intel Wi-Fi 6 and Thunderbolt 3 capabilities for some fast IO. The Galaxy Book Flex, as implied by the name, is a 2-in-1 with a 360-degree hinge, designed to be used as a PC or as a tablet with an optimized S Pen. The Galaxy Book Ion, on the other hand, is a standard clamshell model. Both will come in 13.3 and 15.6 inch sizes.
The new device I was most excited to see was a new Android-based Galaxy Tab Active Pro for enterprises. The new 10.1-inch device is rugged, in compliance with both the military-grade MIL-STD 810G standard (which I’ve been asking for) and the IP68 standard for water and dust resistance. It features replaceable batteries which means you can swap between shifts, LTE connectivity, Knox security, and can be touched while wearing gloves. Samsung says it is capable of 15 hours of video playback on a full charge. It also features 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage space, with external MicroSD memory support up to 512GB. I believe Samsung finally nailed it with the Galaxy Tab Active Pro—it looks impressively rugged, and I can’t wait to give one a go. The replaceable batteries seem like a cool feature but enterprises could literally by half as many tablets versus those that don’t have them.
It is a developer conference, after all, so Samsung also took the opportunity to announce a slew of updates to its Bixby Developer Studio. These include new Bixby Templates, which can provide pre-existing forms to simplify the creation of capsules for developers, Natural Language Categories, which allow Bixby to suggest useful capsules without having to call out an exact name when asking for help, and enhancements to Bixby Views that allow for consistency in capsule design.
Samsung also introduced several new capabilities meant to help developers build and integrate existing devices with its SmartThings connected device platform. These include a new Rules API, which the company says will enable more automated, daily smart home experiences across much of the SmartThings catalogue. At the event Samsung also announced that it will launch the SmartThings Device SDK Beta program early next year, which it says will allow more third-party manufacturers to develop devices compatible with the SmartThings ecosystem.
Samsung also announced a handful of tools designed to make it easier for developers to design new experiences for the 100M Tizen-powered Smart TVs on the market. These tools include Wits, which uploads code edits to the TV automatically, reducing development time, EasyST, which simplifies the testing of content playback, and the Tizen Identifier for Advertising, or TIFA, which allows consumers to limit ad tracking and opt-out of targeted ads. Additionally, the company announced that, for the first time, Tizen TV OS will now be available to third-party TV makers.
At the event Samsung also highlighted its Secure Development Lifecycle, which it says allows for systematic reviews at every point during the development, supply chain, and manufacturing journey. The company’s Knox SDX enables developers and partners to utilize Samsung’s Knox security solutions into their apps and services.
When I step back and look at Samsung’s long-term programs and initiatives, they’re not all a hit—B2B and Knox, however, is its most successful, boasting approximately 15,000 solution customers.
There was plenty of good stuff to chew on at SDC 2019, from capable-looking new PCs, to promising new developer tools for Bixby and SmartThings and Samsung’s growing B2B capabilities. It’s also of note that Samsung launched the second iteration of its One UI user interface—I covered this announcement separately here, if interested. I will say here that the last time Samsung flirted with a new UI, back at SDC 2018, it followed it up with the Galaxy Fold. In other words, more foldable devices could be on the way soon. It’s nice to see Samsung continue to build out its multi-billion unit developer opportunity.