Alibaba’s Tmall Genie to take on Amazon Echo & Google Home

Though Tmall Genie is not the first smart speaker in China, Alibaba believes it can lead with its unique AI and huge ecommerce data repository

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Chinese ecommerce giant, Alibaba, has launched its AI smart speaker ‘Tianmao Jingling X1’ or the Tmall Genie X1. The device is powered by Alibaba’s voice assistant AliGenie can be activated by voice commands and can perform tasks such as checking calendars, checking weather reports, changing and searching for music, control smart-home IoT devices as well as newscasts among others.

The speaker has been names Tmall after its ecommerce platform has been priced at $73, for the first 1000 buyers, stating to have a cost advantage over its competitors such as Amazon Echo, Apple Home Pod and Google Home which are priced for about $180, $349 to $130 respectively approx. Having said that, the Tmall Genie will cater to Alibaba’s customers and be available only in China from the 8th of August.

According to a Bloomberg report fellow Chinese internet companies Baidu and Tencent are also preparing to launch their own versions of AI powered smart speakers in the coming few weeks. Chinese web services company, Baidu, is already gung-ho about Xiaoyu Zaijia or ‘Little Fish’, its smart speaker and Tencent owned ecommerce portal JD.com has launched LingLong DingDong.

Last week Baidu tied up with audio and voice technology solutions company Conexant to release development kits and reference designs for device makers to develop far-field voice enables AI devices running on Baidu’s DuerOS platform.

Having said that, even though the X1 is not the first in the Chinese market, but Alibaba claims that its AI, and data from its huge ecommerce repository will eventually help it take over the Chinese market. The company also states that the X1 already has hundreds of skills ranging from music, shopping to education and fitness.

The X1 also supports connection with other smart home appliances on Alibaba’s smart home platform such as Tmall Box, air conditioner, and air purifiers and also lets the user access the ecommerce website for orders. Though it accepts commands only in Chinese currently and will not act as a direct competitor to other US based devices in the market, media reports claim that its positioning and pricing may curb the growth of international smart home speakers in the country.

According to consulting firm Strategy Analytics, smart home speakers have risen six times to 4.2 million units in the fourth quarter, with Amazon taking about an 88% share and Google seeing a 10% share. The consulting firm states that by 2022 the spends on smart home speaker hardware, services and installation fees will reach $155 billion. An EMarketer report states that more than one third Americans will use a smart speaker at least once a month this year.

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