The Strategist

Samsung buys a startup from Siri's creators

10/06/2016 - 13:37

South Korean Samsung Corporation agreed to acquire American company Viv Labs, a developer of artificial intelligence programs.

Viv Labs is a startup of developers of Siri voice assistant. In 2010, Apple Corporation bought Siri, and has been installing the software on its devices since then. Viv Labs has developed another voice assistant software called Viv, and presented it to the public this year.

Injong Rhee, CTO and EVP of Software and Services, Mobile Communications at Samsung Electronics, said the corporation will start to equip their smartphones with Viv in the second half of 2017. The transaction amount was not disclosed.

According to one of Viv Labs' founder Dag Kittlaus, Viv’s main advantage before Siri and many other applications of this type is open source code, allowing developers to freely make desired changes in the program. He also said that if Siri have only "a few dozen" opportunities but Viv may offer "hundreds of thousands" of different functions to users and developers. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, Samsung decided to sign a deal with Viv Labs on the background of increased competition between the leading gadget manufacturers. Apart from hardware and software, the race is also about development of artificial intelligence programs, including voice assistants. Google Inc. on Tuesday introduced Google Home, a "smart" voice speaker for managing home devices through Google Assistant.

In August, it became known that Apple acquired a small startup company Turi, another AI developer. Media reported that Apple may integrate Turi’s developments in its voice assistant Siri.

Earlier, Samsung Electronics received an offer from the US hedge fund Elliott Management. It suggests restructuring and implementation of a special dividend payment program worth $ 27 billion to increase value of Samsung Electronics’ shares to a record high.

The investor has sent a letter, where described its proposals for the company’s restructuring. The changes also include reorganization of Samsung Electronics into a holding company and listing of its operating company on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange.

Samsung, in turn, said that it will carefully consider the proposal, and added that the company "believes in a constructive and open dialogue with investors in order to maximize shareholder value."

Elliott’s proposal came at the time when Samsung was struggling with negative effects of unprecedented recall of 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 smartphones in the last month.

Elliott Foundation, established by billionaire Paul Singer, owns a 0.62% stake in Samsung. The hedge fund, which owns $ 27 billion, also wants to make changes to Samsung’s corporate governance. Among other things, the fund proposes to include three independent directors in the company’s board of directors.