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Brief: Alibaba has an Echo-style smart speaker in the works

Amazon Echo Dot. Photo credit: Guillermo Fernandes.

The news:

  • Alibaba could reveal a voice-activated “smart speaker” to compete with Amazon Echo and Google Home as early as next week, according to The Information.
  • While details are thin at this point, consumers are likely to be able to use the device to make purchases from Alibaba’s online platforms using a voice-activated virtual assistant, in much the same way as Amazon Echo users can issue such commands to its Alexa virtual PA.

Why it matters:

  • Alibaba’s virtual assistant – developed by the company’s  China-based AI team – will understand voice commands in Chinese. As such, at this point it is solely targeted at consumers in Alibaba’s home market and there are no plans to release the smart speaker outside of China yet.
  • This means that Alibaba’s speaker will not be in direct competition with Amazon Echo and Google Home, which aren’t currently available in China. However, it may prove a significant rival to HomePod, Apple’s smart speaker which is slated for launch in December this year. Apple sees expansion of its Chinese market share as its main growth opportunity.
  • Alibaba’s smart speaker will also face domestic competition from similar devices already launched by JD and Baidu. Tencent recently unveiled its own virtual assistant Xiaowei.

Source: The Information.

This post Brief: Alibaba has an Echo-style smart speaker in the works appeared first on Tech in Asia.

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