If there’s one thing you can say about Samsung, they’re willing to try new things.
Whether it’s virtual reality, smart home or wearables, you can bet that if there’s a new technology trend charting on Techmeme, Samsung will soon have a new product.
But while the company is known for throwing lots of tech spaghetti against to wall, it’s not always as committed to stuff that doesn’t immediately stick. Whether it’s their lukewarm attachment to different platforms, new form factors or its long and mixed history with things like Internet fridges, they often move on to new, more promising projects fairly quickly.
Which, on the eve of the release of a broad new lineup of smart kitchen appliances, I have to wonder about how dedicated they’ll be to the category.
For the time being, I admit they seem pretty excited, enough so to add a new lineup of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth powered wall ovens, cooktops and range hoods announced to their smart kitchen portfolio. From the looks of it, the Korean manufacturer is hoping the new products will add to the momentum created by the release of the Samsung Family Hub refrigerator, which has been a critical success if not a commercial one (at least not yet).
The new lineup will also work the SmartThings smart home hub, the platform for Samsung’s smart home efforts.
Ultimately, I think the dedication of Samsung to the connected kitchen broadly defined will not waver. The reason is I see a transitional period in the appliance market where the vast majority of big brands add connectivity to their premium tiers, and fairly quickly we’ll see this technology move into all but the low-end budget lines. So in this sense, I don’t think Samsung will move away from smart kitchen.
But just how long they stick with the current configurations and platforms remains to be seen. One example of Samsung’s fickleness towards particular platforms is seen from their treatment of the Galaxy smart watch lineup. One moment it seems they’re abandoning Google’s smartwatch OS, the next moment they’re embracing it again, then they abandon it again.
With smart kitchen, one thing that could reassure potential buyers is the company seems content – for now – to use its smart home platform as the technology foundation, but long term I have to wonder how things might shake out if, say, Samsung does decide to move on from SmartThings.
At the same time, the company is struggling lately as they are put out fires (literally) across the product lineup. Not only have they had to deal with a huge mess around their flagship phone, the Note 7, going up in flames, they’ve also had to deal with consumer complaints about their washing machines catching fire.
All this said, my worry may be overblown. Samsung not only has lots of resources to weather product recalls but also enough to stay committed to new-fangled features even when consumers don’t seem at all interested.
One such example came from Brian Frank at the Smart Kitchen Summit. Frank recalled a time when, as a product manager for Twitter, he was in a meeting with Samsung to discuss their connected refrigerator. The company had put a Twitter client into one of their fridges and told Frank they wanted to license the Twitter client for many years to come to ensure that – yes, you guessed it – the fridge could continue to tweet.
Frank told them it wouldn’t probably be necessary. The reason? When he examined the usage of the Twitter client by actual owners of the Samsung tweeting fridge, he could count the number of people who had used the feature on his hand.