The Alibaba (BABA) versus Amazon (AMZN) contest is getting more interesting. Alibaba is now convinced that Bezos' Alexa-enabled Echo smart speaker is really an effective way to compel more people to do repeat online purchases. It understood why Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL), and Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) all came up with copycat versions of the Amazon Echo. Jack Ma also probably believed RBC Capital Markets' projection that the Echo speaker could generate $10 billion in business for Amazon by 2020. Even though Alibaba is a Business-to-Business [B2B] e-commerce operator, it is now selling its own $73 smart speaker.
Just days after news emerged that Samsung is working on its own AI-equipped speaker, Chinese giant Alibaba is also entering the fray. The Tmall Genie, which does a similar job to Amazon's Alexa, lets you control your home and offers news, music playback and a raft other skills via voice assistant AliGenie. Unlike Samsung's as-yet ephemeral offering, however, the Tmall Genie will be available on July 17th for the equivalent of $73. The device is only available in China and for now only speaks Mandarin. Alibaba isn't the first Chinese company to foray into the increasingly-saturated smart speaker market: Baidu's got the Xiaoyu Zaijia and JD.com boasts the LingLong DingDong.
Alibaba has enabled the AliGenie virtual assistant in Audi, BMW, Honda, Renault, and Volvo vehicles. This article in The Motley Fool identifies a range of services that AliGenie enables as the conversational commerce portal to Alibaba's Taobao and Tmall marketplaces as well as to Alipay: It also acts as a hub for a wide range of smart home devices. Last year, Alibaba introduced Tmall Genie Auto, a version for connected cars. BMW and Volvo initially agreed to install Alibaba's speakers in their cars, and the company recently added Volkswagen's Audi, Renault, and Honda to its customer list. However, China's smartphone shipments fell 14% last year, according to Canalys, due to the saturation of the market.
China's Alibaba Group Holding launched on Wednesday a cut-price voice assistant speaker, similar to Amazon.com The'Tmall Genie', named after the company's e-commerce platform Tmall, costs 499 yuan ($73.42), These devices are activated by voice commands to perform tasks, such as checking calendars, searching for weather reports, changing music or control smart-home devices, using internet connectivity and artificial intelligence. The Tmall Genie is currently programmed to use Mandarin as its language and will only be available in China. It is activated when a recognised user says'Tmall Genie' in Chinese.
Today I'd like to cover Intelligent Assistants. Perhaps this is cheating a bit, because it's a post I originally published on Medium on June 22nd. Then I had played with my first two home assistants (Amazon Echo I bought for my mom and a Google Home I received as a gift) and realised the potential these devices have not only in the home, but very soon also in the car and office. This year, 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant at least once a month, doubling last year's figure, forecasts eMarketer. I don't normally like to predict things, but here's one: Home assistants are here to stay.