Samsung, SKT, Kakao Teams Up to Take on Global Tech Giants

Samsung Electronics' Bixby, SK Telecom's Nugu, and Kakao's Kakaomini.
Samsung Electronics' Bixby, SK Telecom's Nugu, and Kakao's Kakaomini.

South Korea’s top technology companies announced Friday that they would create a “dream team” revolving around artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

Samsung Electronics Co., SK Telecom Co., and Kakao Corp. will form a partnership competing in AI venture against international alliances led by companies such as Amazon, Google, and Apple.

SK Telecom’s chief executive officer Park Jung-ho contacted Samsung Electronics and Kakao early in January, proposing to create an alliance that concentrates on collaborating with the development of powerful AI-powered solutions. The collaboration would focus on virtual assistance services, which is led mainly by foreign tech companies such as Amazon, Google, and Apple.

According to industry sources on Thursday, the three Korean tech giants plan to debut the AI alliance late February.

Since 2016, the Korea-based companies released their respective AI-powered virtual assistant services, such as SK Telecom’s Nugu, Kakao Mini, and Samsung’s Bixby. The companies’ first collaboration would be voice-activated services hoping to create a strong impact in the industry as no local company has been able to make yet.

While domestic industry players have been struggling to generate interest from users, international tech giants Amazon and Google have quickly expanded their market share not only in the global voice assistant industry but also in Korea’s market.

Alexa by Amazon has over 20,000 products from about 3,500 companies from around the globe. Meanwhile, sold Google-assistant equipped devices exceeded 1 billion in number last year.

A telecom industry official said that radical collaboration between Korean companies is a must if they do not want to fall behind their global competitors.

In December last year, Amazon, Google, and Apple announced their team up in creating a combined technology standard planning to make their AI-based smart home technology more compatible with a variety of devices.

Samsung, SK Telecom, and Kakao are also aggressively expanding their AI technology capabilities to close the gap with their competitors.

Samsung Electronics announced in January that it would set up a new tech group by joining its in-house technology units associated with the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and big data solutions. According to officials, the company’s in-house tech unit will be tentatively called the “next-generation platform center.”

Meanwhile, SK Telecom is preparing to join its Nugu voice assistant with its T phone calling app, and Kakao is working to have its Kakao mini smart speaker to be integrated with more smart home appliances.

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February 14,2020

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